Super Pay for Super Teachers?

For $100,000 a year in pay and bonuses, would "super teachers" give up union protections and teach at high-stress, low-performing schools? You bet.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, wants to create a new educational job titled, "super teacher" for educators interested in making $100,000 in salary and bonuses -- but there's a catch. Teachers would have to give up certain union protections like tenure and job security.

"They're willing to waive tenure and seniority rights," said Pawlenty. "So we can hire who we want, fire who we want and assign them when we want and how we want to assign them."

The "super teacher" bonuses would kick in when students improved their scores on standardized tests. Pawlenty is proposing that these "super teachers" replace the entire teaching staff at selected schools where students are under-achieving.

The union is willing to negotiate on the idea. I predict they'll want to expand the definition of "super teacher" so broadly that there won't be enough money to raise the pay. And they'll want it to be pay, not bonuses linked to student achievement.

‘Failing’ Teachers

Bob Herbert, a New York Times columnist, blames “failing teachers” teachers for letting classrooms collapse into chaos. He's quoting other teachers talking about some of their colleagues. But you'd expect the liberal-leaning Herbert to blame the system and demand more money. Nope.

The teachers I talked to spread the blame widely among students, parents, teachers and administrators. But they were hardest on teachers.

"You have teachers who are very diligent," said a middle-aged teacher from the Bronx. "They work very hard, and even come up with money out of their own pockets to pay for supplies, or even to help these children when they are in trouble. But there are many, many others who are not remotely interested in these kids. They tell the kids to their faces: 'I don't care what you do. I'm still going to get paid.'

"They mean it. They don't care. The kids pass classes they don't even attend, and attend classes they aren't even assigned to."

Nothing will improve until we’re willing to face the ugly truth about the violence, corruption and chaos in urban schools, Herbert writes.

Dissect the Bunny

To counteract "humane education" curricula, a group that favors biomedical research on animals is promoting a "science-based science curriculum" aimed at elementary and middle school students. reports:

OSERA's curriculum advocates for animal laboratory testing and opposes animal rights, placing it at odds with much of what humane education teaches.

"Kids don't understand when they are contacted by animal rights organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) or any of the other groups, for every cause there is an effect," (M. Sue) Benford said, referring to what she sees as the great benefits of animal biomedical research.

"They don't understand that if someone goes in and destroys a laboratory where maybe 20 years of research has been underway to cure, let's say, smallpox or anthrax or cancer, somebody may die for that," Benford added.

But PETA fired back and accused Benford's group of "brainwashing kids."

Benford survived childhood cancer thanks to medical research, including research on animals.

Benford cited her daughter's 4th grade class as an example of how today's elementary school kids have already been indoctrinated into the animal rights ideology.

When the 4th grade teacher told the class that animals were used in research to produce modern medications, many students in the classroom said, "that's terrible, that's awful," Benford recounted. When the teacher asked, "Can you come up with an alternative -- [the students] said, 'yeah, test it on old people,'" Benford said.


There's a great way to get school kids to cut down on snacks. Fill the vending machines with soy milk and granola bars.

Since Snicker bars and soda were replaced with granola and soy milk, snack sales have slumped by more than 40 percent at schools in a limited pilot program in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

That's worrying some officials who fear they may have to cut sports and after-school clubs traditionally funded by revenue from campus snack and soda sales. But others say that the program, in place since March, needs more time and that sales of healthy snacks are picking up.

"Hot Cheetos and sodas" are "kind of the American way," says Erick Garcia, 17. "It's like taking part of our bodies away from us."

At my last high school reunion, the family picnic was catered by an alum who owns a vegetarian restaurant. It was all "healthy" food. I've never seen so many disgruntled children. The adults weren't much happier either. I tried the soy milk. It was horrible. At the somewhat premature end, organizers were begging people to take leftovers with them. I literally ran from a former classmate who tried to shove a carton of soy milk into my arms.


Nina Evans writes: 

In response to “Out of control,” this is exactly why I am not teaching now. I was a new teacher and placed in the class with juvenile delinquents and kids with police records for drug distribution. I had only one disciplinary measure: demerits. Kids were bragging they had over a 100 and the limit was 25. Nothing was done to them. But teachers who tried to maintain authority were vilified everyday in every class and told by the administration: Control your class.

I'd like to. But I am not a Paris Island drill sergeant who had two tours of duty in Vietnam and a tour in the first Gulf War. He had control. They also knew he was a threat. I was short and a minister's wife. No threat there. And this was a parochial school in rural South Carolina.

People want to know why there is a teacher shortage. It's not money. It's kids and parents who don't understand who should be in control in a classroom. It's not little Johnny. It's the teacher. End of story. However, parents are clueless about classroom dynamics and think that miracles can be worked with their kid and 30-plus others. If their kid doesn't behave at home, he isn't likely to in class either. The problem is, it's not just your kid. It's at least 5 to 8 others who have issues that drive them to disrupt and shanghai a class if they can get away with it.

Education is NOT a right. It is a privilege. Ask the inmates receiving an education in prison, they know this truth. If they misbehave, privilege revoked. I have a friend who taught in the same environment I did. Now she teaches inmates in a prison. She told me it's wonderful. No issues about who is in control. And they want to learn. What else do they have to do?

I do not suggest running public schools like a prison. Just remove the kids who have issues with authority and place them in no-choice-left schools. Paris Island drill sergeants can do a lot with these kids. I couldn't. 

Sandy Robinson writes:

My wish is to gather all the "wanna be” gang members and plop them down in Colombia with the FARC, or in Indonesia, or even with Hamas, so they can see what real gangs are all about.  Perhaps then, if they survived, they would be happy to take their butts to school, sit down in their assigned seats, and have their behinds in the house when the street lights came on.

Jennifer Love writes:

Let's put energy towards making our schools better! If you have a problem with policy, organize and take control of the situation when regulations or problems arrive! It's hard enough for those teachers to teach, and we're asking them to be mediators, watch dogs, judges, mothers, secretaries, bookkeepers, psychologists, etc. 

Joanne Jacobs is a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at and is writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school.

Respond to the Writer