BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
Governor Phil Bryant unveiled a plan on Friday to change the way teachers are paid in Mississippi from a seniority based system to one based on student performance. On it’s face, the change has merit. But, it will be years before we know if such a change is doing it’s intended job. That means, potentially, another generation of Mississippi students lost to the archaic bureaucracy of government schooling.
The governor’s plan places the implementation of the new reward system at the school level. That makes sense, but it also puts the success of the plan in the hands of some very politically driven decision makers. We’ve already seen how school administrators work to keep their fiefdoms intact and the golden goose eggs coming their way.
Regardless of whether charter school legislation would have made it to Governor Bryant’s desk or not, changes to the current government schools as they exist would have still needed to be made. But, if Mississippi is to move at the pace of improvement that is needed then even more drastic changes must come. In the void of education reform from the legislature, Governor Bryant is forced to patch the leaks on a sinking ship.
Warren Buffett said, “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”
Unfortunately, the political moves of Superintendents like Milton Kuykendall in Desoto County have denied our children that additional vessel. The government school lobbyists would have us defer our parental responsibility to oversee the education of our children to them and them alone without question, and regardless of how pitiful a job they have done piloting the ship. That has left parents without a diverse set of choices for the near future.
The study released by Bryant was conducted by Mississippi State University. It takes the successes and failures of other states attempts at Performance Based Compensation (PBC) into consideration in planning what may work best here. Other studies have shown attempts at teacher merit pay to have mixed results at best, a fact the MSU study acknowledges.
A recent study by two professors at Harvard indicated that what may work best in terms of PBC is “loss aversion”. Rather than paying teachers for good results, “loss aversion” would take money away from those who don’t get results from their students. But, in a state where teachers are swamped by administrative mandates and a lack of money making it past administrators and into the classroom, that type of punitive system seems mean-spirited enough to drive more qualified people away from teaching altogether.
The governor says that a few districts have already shown interest in being part of a trial run for the new PBC plan. For the plan to be implemented across the state, the legislature would have to vote to change from seniority based pay to the new system.
The plan is not without merit. But, it’s not going to change our state’s education rankings overnight. The only thing that will make the drastic changes we need in Mississippi is to get to the root of the problem. That problem is the government school administrators who have convinced generations that only they can do the job of education. Many parents have been content to believe them and have institutionalized their own children into a failing system. Parental involvement can only go as far as schools allow, and school districts can only allow as much as the mandates and bureaucracy give them the leniency to do so. It’s a vicious cycle that has trapped generations of families.
The solution is a legislature willing to drastically change the education system in Mississippi from a one-size-fits-all system to a diverse set of choices for parents to find what fits their child best. It is that type of system we should be striving for, and that type of change has merit.
About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett