Monday, August 28, 2006

Teacher Salaries

A report by two economists found that academic standards (literacy & numeracy) of beginning teachers in 2003 are lower than those of 1983. The economists report indicated:

  • low salaries for teachers were the main culprit
  • merit pay for good teachers would be more cost-effective

Australian Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, has used this report to push for "merit-based" pay. That is, individual workplace contracts, but she did not use those words! Why not? More and more people are opposing them, as they, their friends and families experience them in the workplace.

The political context is as follows:

  • the Federal Government wants all workers on individual contracts (AWAs). The net effect of AWAs will be to lower wages, by reducing the “bargaining power” of individual employees. This is the main thrust of the Federal Government’s industrial relations laws.
  • teacher unions have traditionally been quite strong, and sometimes militant.
  • people become teachers because they want to make a difference: they leave becasue of our (society's and politician's) abuse and because they are crushed by bureaucractic and political interference.
  • The Federal Government does NOT want unions involved.
  • For years, elements of the (mostly tabloid) media have bagged teachers and the teaching profession using populist mistruths about hours worked, union membership and greed. Yet this same research by the economists found that teacher pay levels had fallen, by 4% - 13% in real terms, and up to 17%, compared to other recent graduates!
  • The Federal Government seeks to reduce costs by using an economic rationalist approach. That is, students are production units, and the output of teachers is measured in student grades A-E, and by public examinations on content. Nevertheless ACT Government opposition (Liberal) education spokeswoman Vicki Dunne is reported as saying …

"The real problem in the ACT is that the economic rationalist approach of the (Labor) government is to make economies now and not look to the long term and see where we will be in the future”.

Mmmm … that is probably true of the ACT, and other, Labor governments.. However, this also criticises the Federal Government’s position, because its arguments are also based on economic rationalism, and student results as the ONLY measure of teacher effectiveness, regardless of demographic and social factors.

Julie Bishop is setting out to do to school education what Brendon Nelson has previously done to universities and TAFE: reduce the funds to the barest minimum, and preferably transfer them to the private sector. Every single voter who cares about their children and grandchildren should resist her efforts.

The Analyst