Treating Teachers like Wine

Treating Teachers like Wine
October 16, 2013

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)

School Choice Weekly, Issue #12

Unions seem to believe teachers are like some wines: The older, the better. The age-determined pay scale unions demand is the reason 2013’s National Teacher of the Year earns less than 25,000 other teachers in his state, despite his accolades and despite his high-demand field--teaching high school science.

Besides his teaching duties, Jeff Charbonneau has netted his high school more than $25,000 in grants for a robotics program he runs there. He is also adjunct faculty at three higher education institutions, meaning students who take his classes can earn up to 24 college credits by high school graduation.

Charbonneau’s pay is limited, however, not by his work ethic and expertise, but by pay scales that recognize neither. According to those, he is worth the same as every other teacher who manages to stay put in the same district for 12 years.

This system “treats all educators like identical parts in a factory,” writes Jamie Lund, a senior fellow at Washington’s Freedom Foundation, who checked into Charbonneau’s pay. “Those with less seniority get paid less, and they also have less protection from moves or dismissal due to declining enrollment.”

Many districts have seen beloved and excellent teachers laid off before less-excellent teachers simply because of seniority rules. As Lund points out, that recently happened to Sacramento’s Teacher of the Year.

Some wines get dusty and sour with age. Because of this, age is not the criteria even a half-aware person uses for choosing a wine. Why use it for teachers? Only because, for unions, teachers and children are an afterthought. Money and power are the real goals. Age-determined hiring, raises, and firing keeps teachers part of the collective, rather than giving them the individual freedom to earn the rewards of their excellence.

SOURCE: Freedom Foundation


School Choice Roundup

  • IOWA: A new poll finds 54 percent of Iowans support vouchers and 58 percent support tax-credit scholarships. Five times as many Iowans wish they could send their kids to private school than actually do.

Common Core Watch

  • NEW YORK: The state education commissioner has canceled three public Common Core forums, saying parents have gotten too boisterous. He also called objecting parents and teachers “special interests.”
  • TEXTBOOKS: The Business Roundtable wants to establish a panel to judge which school materials are Common Core-compliant, because everything labels itself so now. Teachers and districts say they’re overwhelmed at sorting through all the Common Core-labeled materials.

Education Today

  • COLORADO: Discover the school district set on implementing controversial data-gathering initiative inBloom after nearly all the states that planned to do the same have dropped out. The database connector includes potential entries for things like family relationships (such as “foster parent” or “father’s significant other”) and reason for enrollment changes (“withdrawn due to illness” or “leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident”).

Thank you for reading! If you need a quicker fix of news about school choice, you can find daily updates online under the Ed News Roundup at

Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann, who writes this e-newsletter and is managing editor of School Reform News, is available for speaking engagements on Common Core and other education topics. For more information, contact heartland Events Manager Nikki Comerford at 312/377-4000, email

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Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)