Republican bill would ignore education, experience in salary decisions for future educators

Steve Norton, executive director of Michigan Parents for Schools, testifying Wednesday before the House Education Committee in opposition to House Bill 4625, which would ban school districts from considering teachers’ experience and much of their educational attainment when setting their wages.

It would be illegal to pay future educators based on their experience and education except for few exceptions, under legislation introduced by state Rep. Pete Lund, R-Romeo.

The Michigan House Education Committee held a hearing Wednesday on House Bill 4625, which would make teacher performance the “primary” factor in determining pay, as opposed to its current status of being a “significant” factor. Under the bill, teacher performance would be primarily measured by student growth on standardized tests.

Furthermore, districts would be barred from considering teachers’ educational attainment when determining their pay. The only exceptions would be for teachers who hold secondary certificates with a subject area endorsement and who are teaching in that subject area, as well as for elementary school teachers who have an advanced degree in elementary education.

MEA strongly opposes the legislation because it removes incentives for teachers to gain experience and advance their educations. Instead, it will force more teachers to simply teach to the test, while disincentivizing the teaching of long-term critical thinking skills and other subjects that can’t easily be measured on standardized tests.

Testifying in favor of the bill was George Parker, senior policy fellow with the “reform” group StudentsFirst, led by Michelle Rhee, the discredited former chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools.

Ironically, Parker repeatedly highlighted his 30 years of experience in education to point out his qualifications for testifying in favor of a bill that makes experience in education meaningless.

Steve Norton, executive director of Michigan Parents for Schools, testified in opposition to the bill, saying House Bill 4625 has “unintended consequences.”

Norton said that while “from a parent perspective, we certainly agree that we want effective teachers in every classroom,” standardized tests do not “necessarily measure the crucial things we want our children to get out of public education.”

“We need to think a little more broadly of what qualifications mean and how we evaluate teachers, especially when you have teachers who are teaching multiple subject areas at the same time,” Norton said.

“We’ve run into very few teachers who aren’t trying hard enough, who aren’t working hard enough,” he said.

Opponents of evaluating teachers primarily on standardized test scores rightfully point out that it pits teachers against one another, as they compete for a finite pool of job positions and wages.

Norton agreed, saying “education is not an individual effort” and that educators should collaborate, not compete.

The House Education Committee is tentatively scheduled to meet again on Wednesday, May 15 at 10:30 a.m. MEA members are encouraged to contact their legislators and ask them to support education and experience and oppose House Bill 4265.