06/05/2014 09:23 am ET Updated Aug 05, 2014

Bad Bills Hamper Teacher Effectiveness

Republican legislators pay a lot of lip service to cutting wasteful spending. Unfortunately their actions aren't always in line with their rhetoric.

Recent examples of this include the Florida welfare drug testing program, the U.S. Defense budget and the support for lower capital gains tax rates, which all have Republicans unnecessarily wasting taxpayer money.

But no Republican hypocrisy is complete if it doesn't include an attack on public education. Luckily, Republicans in the Legislature has managed to offer up such a bill. Using the fallacy that our education system is broken and that public educators are squarely to blame, the Legislature has passed two bills that look to make teachers accountable for their student outcomes.

If the capitalist model is the basis for these changes, it is important to recognize that, in the private sector, when an individual is judged on the performance of others, that individual typically has the authority to remove any underperforming team members and chose a staff that they work well with.

Educators have no such option. They must teach and improve every student that walks through the door. Period.

It should also be noted that the education profession already has both a high turnover rate and a shortage of qualified replacements. This suggests that the provisions of these bills making it easier to get rid of teachers are very unlikely to be the magic bullet toward improving education that many believe.

The one thing these bills manage to do very well is spend taxpayer dollars. According to the House Fiscal Agency the financial impact of these "teacher accountability" bills is as much as $42 million initially, with ongoing costs "likely to decrease slightly."

Yes, Legislature is willing to spend up to $42 million per year to have a statewide evaluation system that meets the standards of the 148 apparent education experts currently residing in the Michigan House and Senate.

So what sort of return should Michigan residents expect on this investment?

According to, it costs as much as $219,504 to remove "bad teachers."

This means the state would need to identify and remove over 190 bad teachers per year just to break even. And if school districts are hiring and giving tenure to that many bad teacher per year, shouldn't this legislation focus more on fixing the hiring process than burdening tens of thousands of effective teachers with additional metrics?

Given that 52 percent of educators have a masters degree or higher and have been on the job for, in many cases, four years or more before they get tenure protection, one might expect a significant separation cost.

Most of the Republicans who have a problem with this are willing to accept the nearly $30 in golden parachutes the average CEO gets regardless of how well they did their job. They also don't seem to mind the legal costs and the hundreds of thousands in severance packages many private sector employees often receive.

Unfortunately, for students, the benefits of these proposed changes are still very much in question.

While many studies find little to no improvement, one of the few studies to show a positive correlation uses different measures than the prospective Michigan program. Ironically, these legislators seem to have done very little to evaluate the effectiveness of their own program aimed at evaluating teacher effectiveness. Perhaps the makeup of the Michigan plan will improve educator performance or perhaps it will errantly fire good teachers.

Ask anyone of these legislators to stake their jobs on the effectiveness of this legislation and watch them offer up a multitude of reasons why they shouldn't be held accountable for the actions of others even thought that is exactly what they expect teachers to happily accept.

Someday Republicans will have eliminated all of the public school boogeymen (bad teachers, tenure, unions) and spent billions of dollars with their McCarthy-style witch hunts that completely gut the best education system in the world for nominal gains.

Perhaps then they will finally admit that they are not experts in education and what we really needed to do to improve educational outcomes had way more do with problems that fall outside of a teacher's control.

Educators are more than happy to take personal responsibility for their actions. What they aren't willing to do is take the fall for the failure of legislators and parents which is exactly what this legislation makes them do.

Previously published in the Detroit News.