Federal

Rethinking Teachers’ Contracts, Report Argues, Would Free Up Funding Flexibility

By Bess Keller — January 09, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Many schools could lavish a fifth or more of their current budgets on measures to raise student achievement if they axed spending on teachers’ contract provisions that do little good in that area, argues a new report from the think tank Education Sector.

Among the provisions that researcher Marguerite Roza contends “have a weak or inconsistent relationship with student learning” are such commonplace arrangements as teacher salary increases based on years of experience and advanced degrees, days set aside for professional development, extra teachers’ aides, class-size limits, and generous sick leave, health benefits, and pensions.

The report, ” Frozen Assets: Rethinking Teacher Contracts Could Free Billions for School Reform,” is available from Education Sector.

If the deals for teachers did not include any of these perks, Ms. Roza of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Schools calculated, districts would have about an extra $77 billion to spend.

“This is not excess money that could be withdrawn from the public education system with no impact on student learning,” the author specified, “but rather money that might be spent differently with greater effect.”

For example, raises for job longevity and generous health insurance could be traded in for better salaries to attract high-quality beginners, the report says. Or smaller class sizes and some classroom aides might be sacrificed to hire teachers for after-school tutoring.

Many schools, particularly those serving poor children, would likely need significantly more money to improve achievement, Ms. Roza added.

‘Misguided’ Analysis

By far the largest chunk of questionable spending, according to the author, is salary raises for years of experience, which she estimates at an average of slightly more than 10 percent of district budgets. The report points to research showing that teachers typically improve through the first five years of their careers, plateau, and then decline as they approach retirement, while some beginning teachers are better than more experienced ones. Salary schedules might be restructured accordingly, with higher starting salaries and raises for effectiveness rather than longevity, the study suggests.

Other contract provisions award teachers better benefits than private-sector professionals, including more sick and personal leave days, better health insurance, and more generous pensions, according to the report. The leave serves as an incentive for teachers to take days off, and the pensions have left many districts with a disproportionate number of senior teachers, Ms. Roza said. These negative effects, the report says, could be countered by cutting the number of sick days to about three per school year—comparable to what other professionals take—and by reducing retirement benefits but making them more portable so as to attract talented newer teachers.

Ms. Roza, who is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Washington-based Education Sector, took pains to avoid being labeled anti-teacher, pointing out that contract provisions are the work of administrators as well as teachers’ unions. Also, she argued that many teachers would benefit from changes that increase the quality of schools.

Antonia Cortese, the executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, blasted the report for shoddy research and “misguided” analysis. The study “provides no evidence to suggest [that the contract provisions] hinder education reform,” she said in a statement. “Schools can only be improved if educators, district officials, and politicians work together to develop real solutions instead of making unions scapegoats.”

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Voters Want Republicans and Democrats to Talk About Learning Recovery, Not Culture Wars
A recent Democrats for Education Reform poll shows a disconnect between political candidates and voters on education issues.
4 min read
Image of voting and party lines.
TheaDesign/iStock/Getty
Federal Use Your 'Teacher Voice,' Jill Biden Urges in a Push for Political Activism
Voting in the midterms is a critical step educators can take to bolster democracy, the first lady and other labor leaders told teachers.
5 min read
First Lady Jill Biden speaks during the American Federation of Teachers convention, Friday, July 15, 2022, in Boston.
First lady Jill Biden speaks during the American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Federal Federal Initiative Leverages COVID Aid to Expand After-School, Summer Learning
The Education Department's Engage Every Student effort includes partnerships with civic organizations and professional groups.
3 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at an event on June 2, 2022, at the Department of Education in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at an event at the Department of Education in Washington in June. The department has announced a push for expanded access to after-school and summer learning programs.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal Restraint and Seclusion, and Disability Rights: Ed. Department Has Work to Do, Audit Finds
The Government Accountability Office releases a checklist of how the U.S. Department of Education is performing on a list of priorities.
4 min read
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the Education Department in Washington on Aug. 9, 2017.
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. The Government Accountability Office has released recommended priorities for the Education Department that target special education rights.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP