Friday, July 31, 2009

Nodler: Career ladder money for teachers on chopping block

It appears our General Assembly, which rails each year about the quality of education in Missouri, is about to try something drastic to improve the situation...cutting the amount of money teachers are paid.

The Columbia Missourian reports our own Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, a candidate for U. S Congress, and Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, a candidate for state auditor, wrote a letter to the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, saying that money for the Career Ladder program may be cut. Nodler and Icet are the chairmen, respectively, of the Senate and House budget committees:

Nodler, R-Joplin, said Friday there is no opposition to the program. It's just a matter of being able to pay back the district since state revenue is down.

“If you are going to do this, do this in a way that you won't make promises to teachers that you can't keep,” said Nodler, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Career Ladder funding is used to pay for teachers for after hour tutoring programs, homework centers, educational extracurricular activity sponsorship, and attendance at seminars and workshops that are not covered under the teachers' regular contracts, in other words, exactly the kind of things that are necessary to keep children in school and improve the quality of education. Teachers become eligible for Career Ladder after they have taught five years in Missouri. It was set up as a means of improving the pay level of veteran teachers, who are often the ones who receive short shrift as schools continue to improve the pay level for beginning teachers.

Admittedly, I am prejudiced on this subject. I receive $3,000 each year from Career Ladder, which I earn through a number of activities including sponsoring the school academic team, sponsoring a journalism club, serving as chairman of the school's Writing Improvement Committee, and serving on the Discipline Committee, as well as attending numerous after-school meetings.


Anonymous said...

sponsoring the school academic team, sponsoring a journalism club, serving as chairman of the school's Writing Improvement Committee, and serving on the Discipline Committee, as well as attending numerous after-school meetings.

I thought these things were part of being a teacher....and I said "being a teacher,"....not "for teaching"

teachers have always done these kinds of things - long before career ladders....

everyone else is giving up benefits, taking on more responsibilities, doing the job that a fired collague was doing...maybe this is the sacrifice those who teach will have to make...I'm sure making my it's hard for me to be very sympathetic

Busplunge said...

This state cares more about a bicycle race than teachers.

What A Place!

Happy Parent said...

Teachers do work many more hours than those for which they receive compensation. We aren't talking about getting paid to grade papers. We are talking about tutoring students outside of school hours.

Teachers are some of the most underpaid employees. At the minimum, they have a bachelor's degree. Many have a master's degree or above. Their responsibility is the education of those who will one day be our leaders. They do make many sacrifices on a daily basis, and are worthy of our respect.

Anonymous said...

Career has long been the most abused and corrupt program in the state. If there is a bigger waste of taxpayer money, I haven't heard of it. It has become a complete joke and at many schools it is a way for disgruntled teachers to harass other teachers and nitpick their career ladder plans to make them feel superior. When you have to "document" your hours and you are basically policing yourself, something is wrong. There are so many bogus plans turned with hours that never took place that it is embarrassing. Do not kid yourself ladder needs to go away and that money needs to be allocated differently in order to be effective. Career ladder in it's current form doesn't even come close to doing what it was intended to do. There are many awful educators receiving money for doing nothing every year and having these plans approved. Turner, if you respond by saying that it doesn't happen in every district, you are either naive or lying. It is rampant and needs to vanish!

Randy said...

Nothing is more amusing than people who try to make an argument by first saying that I can't make an argument because it cannot possibly be true. Many of the things you say are true. There are people who are in charge of the Career Ladder committees at schools who do nitpick and create problems. Those people exist in every walk of life. There are also some who cheat, though it is not widespread as you seem to think. I know that the Career Ladder program at my school has been responsible for before-school and after-school homework centers, much after-hours tutoring and the kinds of clubs that offer students productive and educational ways to spend their time. This is not a method of compensating teachers for grading papers and constructing lesson plans. The money goes for extra activities that directly contribute to the educational process. Most teachers who are in the Career Ladder program are still not being paid for anywhere near the number of hours they put in on these extra activities. Career Ladder is not a perfect program. When it was put into effect, it employed the same kind of backward thinking that legislators and state officials always use when it comes to education. Teachers are not paid enough, so let's pay them more, but make them do more work to earn that pay. And at the same time, let's criticize public education and say it is failing when no one is taking any steps to correct the social situations outside of school that contribute to low test scores and disciplinary problems.

As far as the first anonymous commenter is concerned, that is exactly the kind of attitude I am talking about. Teachers are going to continue working at home, grading papers, constructing lesson plans, doing all of the things that are part of being a teacher, and for which they do not receive extra money. In fact, you will find most teachers spend a considerable amount of their own money on things for their classrooms. Nearly all schools have reached an epidemic of students whose parents allow them to go to school day after day without pencil or paper. Most teachers, and you can include me in that number, no longer fight that battle because we would be fighting half the students. I buy pencils and paper for students every year and we are talking about hundreds of sheets of paper and hundreds of pencils.

Many people have hard jobs, no doubt about it, but how many of them are expected as part of their jobs to pay for many of their own supplies.

I acknowledge the first anonymous commenter is correct. Everyone is giving up benefits and taking on more responsibilities and I certainly do not need or want your sympathies.

But if we truly think education is important, then it is time to stop legislators from using teachers for target practice.

Anonymous said...

I teach in Kansas City and refuse to participate in our Career Ladder plan. The paperwork alone is insane. I can also earn more per hour working after school for my regular hourly rate. That being said, I do support Career Ladder and want it expanded. We now get no money for classroom supplies. So I have been spending my summer school earnings buying the things I need in my classroom this fall. What other business is there where employees are expected to furnish their own supplies and work after hours for no additional pay?

Jason said...

My district added career ladder last year. It is sad that some people cheated to get their $1500 check. Most teachers put in hundreds of additional hours to get theirs though and they did things that go well beyond being part of being a teacher.

The work done benefits the district and allows things like a journalism club or academic team to exist. The football coach wouldn't continue to coach if he didn't get extra duty pay and the journalism club sponsor shouldn't either. The homework clubs that we have, the book studies that are done all make the district stronger and benefit the kids.

How much would the district pay per hour to hire reading tutors for elementary students?

When I figured out how much I was compensated per hour for my career ladder work it ended up being nearly $6/hour.

I told my representative that there needed to be a firm answer before Labor Day when our plan is due. I can't do hundreds of hours of extra work plus all the paperwork for free. I'll go back to painting and landscaping like I did to make ends meat when I first started teaching.

Anonymous said...

yeah, anonymous. You worked in the Kansas City school district? A district that wasted millions of Missouri dollars and still failed? I work in a poor district with kids who live in modified buses and tents without running water. Career Ladder helped me make a difference. I've taught 26 years and still make less than the average college graduate in other professional occupations. Yes, I did those things even before Career Ladder, but then I wised up and figured I also needed to get paid for my efforts like everyone else on the planet... especially when students who graduate from school, go straight to work for their parents making more than I do. How about a little respect for a profession that's been dumped on by politicians and the public for two decades.