The Ed Trade: Cash for Tenure The Ed Trade: Cash for Tenure
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The Ed Trade: Cash for Tenure

by Nikhil Swaminathan

November 15, 2008
In late-September, we held a "GOOD Conversation" event in New York that brought together the founders of education-related non-profits Teach for America, 826 National, and Room to Read. At several points throughout the night's discourse, panelists praised Michelle Rhee, the relatively new chancellor who was brought in to reform Washington, D.C.'s abysmal public schools. Fast Company profiled her earlier this year, making no secret of the feathers she was ruffling as she went about her business. (Both McCain and Obama even gave her shout outs in the third presidential debate.)Rhee is back in the spotlight today. The New York Times is reporting that she is waging thermonuclear war on tenure, which may be good for a teacher's job security but, she argues, makes ineffective educators harder to let go. The D.C. teachers union is currently blocking her attempts to root out the bad seeds. Her solution: Show teachers the money!Rhee is taking a page from The Matrix, offering teachers one of two compensation plans, named the red and the green plan. The red plan offers modest raises and tenure, but strips teachers of seniority rites that allow longer-serving people to displace newbies, if a school is downsizing. The fittingly named green plan asks teachers to give up tenure and submit to reviews by principals, but promises pay raises of up to $40,000 per year to brave teachers willing to fly without the net of guaranteed employment. The second, more lucrative option could result in a teacher making $130,000 a year by 2010.Rhee might be doomed. Her war on tenure, the feather in the cap of teacher's unions, echoes that of her former boss, New York school chancellor Joel Klein, whose name is popping up on shortlists for Pesident-Elect Obama's Secretary of Education. He failed at his stab to do away with it. The only successful stab at tenure took place in Georgia eight years ago when then-Gov. Roy Barnes repealed the practice. That made him hugely unpopular among teachers in the state and helped cost him his job in 2002.It seems to be a stab at turning the school system into a merticocracy--which on the face of it, doesn't seem all that bad. But, Rhee's nemesis, George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers' Union, notes that administrators are also part of the problem: "Not only teachers are to blame for the problems in this district."(Photo from Flickr user angela n.)
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The Ed Trade: Cash for Tenure