Thursday, May 20, 2010

Equity; you say you want “equity?” Hey, I got your equity right here!

First, a brief quote to set the stage:

Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.

In simple terms, this means those who have equality imposed upon them will by definition lack the freedom to find their own way, while those who are free to find their own way will not arrive at equal outcomes.  It is the nature of human individuality.

“Equity” is one of the great conversation stoppers in today’s political discourse.  Like “fair,”  “social justice,”  “community,” and “the common good.”

You don’t oppose equity, do you???

A fine example of “equity” is the campaign to ensure that women earn the same pay as men for equivalent work.  All sorts of social and psychic energy has been invested in this goal, not to mention untold millions in lawyers fees.  (Somehow the lawyers always make out, don’t they?)

Closer to home, you may recall that “equity” was emphasized by “for the children” advocates, or as we think of them here on Side, the ‘schoolies.’  They used equity as a major reason to build a new school, and to completely realign the grades allocated to the various schools.  They seek to minimize the inequities children experience due to physical plant differences and the happenstance of where they live.

The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve embraced this notion of equity forwarded by the schoolies.  How could one not; let’s see that every child has their 3rd grade experience in the same school so that none has any advantage from doing grade 3 in one school vs. kids doing it in a different school.

This is a profoundly egalitarian concept.  Accordingly, then, we might decide that all Brunswick children will henceforth do their 3rd grade year at the new school on McKeen.  Judging by current enrollment profiles, we could expect 180 students or so in the 3rd grade.  If the average is 20 children per class, we’ll need nine 3rd grade teachers.

But wait – there’s a little problem.  In the 08/09 school year, the pay for 3rd grade teachers ranged from a low of $33,125 to a high of $59,488, the latter number being 80% higher than the former.  Not quite a range of 2 to 1, but pretty close.

Presumably the highest paid teacher works harder and does a better job teaching the standard curriculum in the classroom when compared to the lowest paid teacher.  Or her students achieve at a much higher level than those of the lowest paid teacher.  Or both.

This has to be, because surely the Brunswick School Department espouses pay equity.  Perish the thought they would consider it equitable to pay one teacher 56% of what another teacher earns to do the exact same job with the same outcomes. I’m getting the vapors just thinking about the possibility.

Knowing our officials could never be so unjust, we’ll conclude that the teachers are paid based on their abilities, their responsibilities, and the results they achieve; there could be no other legitimate explanation for the wide disparity in pay for teaching the 3rd grade.

Which takes us to the subject of equity “for the children.”  If all 3rd graders attend the new school, with nine different 3rd grade teachers, we’ve got an equity conundrum.  Who will study under the best teacher, and who will study under the worst?

If the teachers are as different in quality as their pay levels would imply, how do we make sure that “the children” do not have an inequitable 3rd grade experience?  We can’t permit some children to spend the year with the best teacher, some to spend the year with the worst teacher, and the rest to be sprinkled across the range of teacher qualities in between.

Oh, what to do?  How will we ensure that Marcellus has the same advantages as Amaryllis?  And vice versa.  And not a bit more.

Now that we think of it, we have to wonder why the lower paid third grade teachers aren’t demanding pay equity with the better paid teachers.  They’re doing the same job, right?  Aren’t they teaching the same aged kids to the same curriculum for the same outcomes?  Don’t they have equal responsibilities?

How can it be celebrating equity to pay them so differently?  How can town leaders and officials endorse such imbalance?  Don’t they believe in fairness and justice?

Or do the higher paid teachers get proportionately more kids in their class, or get handed the worst learners, while the lower paid teachers get smaller classes and the better learners?

I don’t know.  Perhaps you do.

Until we find out, though, it looks like we have to do the following.  On the first day of school, divide the 180 third graders evenly among the nine third grade teachers.  To make the equity thing work out, each month the students will have to rotate to a different teacher’s class room, in a sort of equity driven musical chairs protocol.

It may sound odd, but when your goal is equity, it’s worth the troubles.  If only one child overcomes what would have been teacher disadvantage syndrome, Brunswick, and the world, will be a better place for it.

Voila; now that’s equity.  We’ve solved the problem for the children, even if it does mean a new teacher each and every month.

Now if we could just do something about that pesky equal pay for equal work challenge, then equity would really have meaning in our schools. 

Instead of the shibboleth it usually is, especially among the education professionals, who aren’t setting a very good example ‘for the children.’  Or for us, either, come to think of it.

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1 comment:

  1. Tell me, that the oath of office that School Board members take, states in its body that the sole purpose of being elected to that body is to give the school department whatever amount they think is needed to turn young people into instant Einsteins . If that were so then lo all of the years that have passed no one has graduated at that level. I guess I don't understand the "schoolies".