The Mackinac Center continues to put forth wild ideas in the name of “free market” and “limited government.” Churning out propaganda paid for by the super rich Dick DeVos’ of the world wouldn’t be a problem if our inept state legislators were smart enough to dismiss them as bull crap. However, the Mackinac Center’s recent success in helping pass right-to-work (for less) legislation shows that they are a powerful influence in Lansing and they should not be taken lightly.
The Mackinac Center recently zeroed in on Wayne-Westland Community Schools to highlight the earth shattering problem that the average physical education teacher in that district makes more than the average math or science teacher in that district. Certainly this was meant to criticize the seniority model that advances teachers pay based on their dedication to the school district. However, it was also a slam against non-core teachers (anyone who doesn’t teach math, science, English, or social studies), and specifically physical educators, who have to meet all the same qualifications as the core teachers do in terms of schooling, testing, professional development, etc. The Mackinac Center’s theory is that this disparity is keeping top science and math minds from entering the profession.
In the Mackinac Center’s research on this issue, they failed to look beyond the surface of the issue. They could not identify how much of the physical educator’s pay was for teaching and how much was for extra curricular pay such as coaching, which physical educators often engage in. They also did not look into the educational value of physical education classes. Physical education has been shown to improve student’s academic performance, perhaps even more than taking an additional core class would. The higher class sizes offered in classes like physical education also helps reduce class sizes in the core areas. This is to say nothing of the importance of physical education in helping battle our nation’s obesity problem.
It seems that the Mackinac Center would like to convince us that it would be appropriate to have different classes of teachers. One type of teacher, the non-core class could start out at less than the average starting salary of $34,000. The high class group of math, science, and whoever else the Mackinac Center deems as important could start out a bit higher. Certainly, paying people less to do the same jobs is a “free market” solution that exists quit extensively in the private sector and the “glass ceiling” is proof of that.
This argument could be moot anyway as Michigan’s Republican leadership has put schools in starvation mode forcing some to purge non-core teachers. I’m sure once we have eliminated, or relegated non-core teachers to being second class citizens, that the best math and science minds will want to work in schools rather than at NASA or Google. Then again, even this lowly old physical educator knows that there isn’t a shred of proof to support the Mackinac Center’s latest bright idea. The Mackinac Center’s motto should be a takeoff of an old Mark Twain quote. Why let facts get in the way of passing conservative legislation?