Saturday, December 28, 2013

Education Commentary Proves Lucrative for Edu-vocates like Rick Hess in Era of Reform

As a teacher, I have always been a bit of an education geek. Beyond just teaching English or working in school administration, I enjoy reading and writing about the issues of the day. However, the recent news out of Douglas County, Colorado indicates I may be in the wrong part of the education field if I want to rake in the dough for writing about education.  A judge in Denver has ruled that the Douglas County School District "violated the Fair Campaign Act when it contracted for and distributed a paper that espoused" the reforms implemented by the school board. While the reforms - and the inherent controversy - around Douglas County Schools are not news, I was quite surprised to learn that education researcher and writer Frederick "Rick" Hess of the American Enterprise Institute was paid $30,000 for the paper in question.  Hess's article "The Most Interesting School District in America" was published in various places and distributed by the district.

Here in Colorado’s third-largest school district, with 65,000 students — an enrollment larger than Washington, D.C.’s and as large as Detroit’s — the superintendent and board are pursuing perhaps the nation’s boldest attempt at suburban school reform. The Douglas County School District is trying to do something truly new. An all-Republican school board has created the nation’s first suburban school-voucher program, introduced market-based pay, allowed its teachers’ union contract to expire, and developed a regimen of home-crafted standards and assessments in lieu of the Common Core (which superintendent Liz Celania-Fagen dismisses as the “Common Floor”). Former Reagan secretary of education William Bennett has opined that Douglas County is “trying to do all the good reforms at once.”
Unwilling to settle for just adding merit raises atop the old industrial pay scale, Douglas County has adopted a market-based pay system. After hiring a former human-resources manager from GE to lead its effort to rethink teacher pay, Douglas County has established five broad pay bands based on the supply and demand for various teaching roles. This allows the districts to pay more for hard-to-find teachers, such as a special-education audiologist, and less for teachers in easier-to-fill roles. For the first time in memory, superintendent Celania-Fagen reports, the district had more quality applicants for special education than they had positions available. Douglas County has shown, with little media fanfare, that it is possible to pay teachers what the market requires instead of being tied to a rigid, union-imposed, one-size-fits-all pay scale.

Certainly, the Era of Reform has become a lucrative new aspect to the field of public education. With the rise of Common Core reforms and new education legislation that links teacher pay with student performance, education consultants are earning big money. This is certainly true for new College Board  president David Coleman who stands to earn more than a half-million dollars in base salary for his new position. Of course, that's no more than the head of the National Education Association (NEA) who earns north of $500K as well - and that comes out of teacher's dues which should support collective bargaining for, among other things, a respectable salary.  And back in Douglas County, it's not surprising that big money is going to consultants and researchers. The district allegedly paid former Education Secretary William Bennet as much as $80,000 for speeches touting the districts reforms.

Apparently, this blogging for ad revenue is the low end of education writing.

Anyone need an education consultant who will work for cheap?

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