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Dom damns PPTA

I love the way those brash  Noo Yawk ad men go right to the heart of an issue in the bluntest of Anglo-Saxon.

(I try to do the same.)

Here’s their take on a common pestilence: unions that put bad teachers before good teachers and children.

I thought it would make a cute backdrop for a post in praise of this morning’s brilliant DomPost editorial about the PPTA’s latest extortion demand.

Teachers need to get real

There has long been a suspicion that reality stops at the door to the teachers’ staffroom.

Now is a time for restraint, not political game-playing. The PPTA is on the wrong side of public opinion. It should abandon its pay claim and focus on improving the quality of teaching.

There is no denying that good teachers are underpaid. But that will not change until teacher unions allow schools to remunerate their staff according to their abilities. No government could afford to bump up the salaries of good teachers by giving all teachers a pay rise.

In Switzerland, I’m told most teachers are paid around NZ$120,000 a year. And who hires them? The parents.

The Post Primary Teachers Association’s ludicrous claim for a 4 per cent pay rise for secondary school teachers lends credence to the theory.

The world is just emerging from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Government is effectively borrowing $200 million a week to maintain existing levels of services, tens of thousands of New Zealanders have lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands have received little, if any, pay rise for the past two years.

The majority reluctantly accept that is the price they must pay for job security. At a time of crisis, everybody – employers and employees – has to tighten their belts.

For the PPTA to demand a big pay increase at such a time is to show gross insensitivity to those who pay teacher salaries through their taxes. For it to demand the increase after its members received 4 per cent pay increases in each of the past three years is to show secondary teachers, or their union at least, are completely out of touch with the real world.

Teachers perform a vital role. They shape the scientists, doctors, cleaners and electricians of the future. As every parent knows, some – those who inspire, engage and excite pupils – are worth their weight in gold. It would be almost impossible to overpay them. However, there are others who go through the motions for a weekly pay cheque and a third group who are simply not up to the job.

Yet the present pay structure does not allow schools to differentiate between the performance of good, indifferent and bad teachers. They are all paid on the basis of their years of service and the responsibilities they hold.

If teacher unions are as serious as they say they are about wanting to keep good teachers in schools, they should work with the Education Ministry to devise a formula that allows schools to pay great teachers what they are worth and send a message to poor teachers that they should review their career options.

Every child knows who their outstanding teachers are. Didn’t you?

Me too. I had about three. I still keep in touch with them 35-40 years later.

Certainly every principal knows who his star performers are. As does any parent who cares about their child’s progress.

I’ve always made a big fuss of great teachers. Anyone who can mesmerise over two dozen hormonal teenagers into mastering  quadratic equations or psychoanalysing Hamlet is one of society’s true heroes.

We had one a few years back who inspired our 12 year old to write a 150 page novel in three weeks.

Like any12 year old, the boy preferred zapping aliens online than pouring prose out of his keyboard.

But this magnificent teacher said “Jump!” And the kids said, “How high?”

As for the dullard teachers, they’re not hard to spot either.

They’re the ones with the long queues of parents snaking out the door and down the corridor on meet-the-teacher nights.

I had one of these for science at high school. More than one actually. Together, they’re the reason I know nothing about science except how to spell it. (Oh, and how to sing the Periodic Table – but that came decades later).

When this guy eventually retired, he apologised to all those he’d mistaught over the years. Which was a fat lot of use.

He should never have been allowed near a classroom. Instead, thanks to the PPTA, he ended up being paid more than his younger, smarter, more diligent colleagues.

For that union to suggest that teachers can’t be measured is exquisitely hypocritical. After all, their members have no trouble applying numerical grades to the children they teach!

But back to the editorial: 

Alternatively, the unions could work with the Government to identify other areas of saving in the education budget. The overstaffed ministry would be a good starting point.

Every 1 per cent increase in primary, secondary and early childhood education salaries costs $50m. Contrary to what the teacher unions and their members appear to believe, the Government is not sitting on a big pot of money. Every extra dollar paid to teachers or other public service employees has to be cut from other areas of government spending or borrowed from overseas.

Whoever wrote that, take a bow.

(Get in touch and I’ll buy you a beer.)

 

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2 thoughts on “Dom damns PPTA

  1. A union meeting next Tuesday afternoon will shut at least one secondary school in Wellington from midday so teachers can attend. This when the importance of class attendance in NCEA years is drummed into the students. Do you think they will notice the hypocrisy? If education was paramount, meetings would be held in the evenings.

  2. Education was never paramount with the Poor Performing Teachers Association, Lindsay.

    Their president was foaming at the mouth last night on Third Degree at the sight of inspirational charter schools making first class human beings out of kids who would have failed in the one-size-fits-all state system.

    To his credit, Duncan Garner clearly implied that she was nuts.

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