David Warlick posted today about how Circuit City (a US electronics store) laid off its most experienced sales people to “save money” and now that has “surprisingly” (absolute sarcasm intended here) lead to a drop in business because their service quality diminished. This immediately hit home with me because of what is happening here in the state of Nevada.
As background I have mentioned before that Nevada annually comes in last or close to last in per pupil funding of schools and yet has a relatively high standard of living. We actually moved up to 47th this last year (from 49th – out of 50) and had a little money to try some new things including an investment in technology. Our governor who initially said that education funding was sacrosanct abruptly changed his mind at the last minute, days before Christmas … the cut to my school district alone is $18 million.
The Nevada legislature only meets every other year so they have to set budgets for 2 years at a time. This last session it was decided that “to save money” teachers would no longer have their medical benefits partially paid for when they retire. This will be “grandfathered-in” next October. You must retire before then or lose your medical benefits when you retire. This will save money by not having to pay health benefits, but also by having the teachers that get paid the most leave. So guess what? Teachers with the most experience are going to retire in droves this year.
Now superimpose this against the fact that fewer and fewer people are becoming teachers. I get asked to sit on interview teams for new teachers quite frequently. It used to be you would interview 5 to 10 prospects and come away with 3 or 4 people that you would hire in a minute. For the last few years this has not been the case. We usually end interviews by asking who else we can interview (no one) and settling on the best of the rejects. In Las Vegas where they open a new school almost every month they have subs running many classrooms full time. They hire people over the phone if they claim they can pass the “fingerprint test” (no criminal background) and pay a signing bonus.
So we are short teachers … lets force a bunch more to retire early … we’ll save money and the quality of teaching won’t suffer. Obviously counterintuitive … just not to the right people.
Learning is messy!
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