Public Schools Should Work Like the NFL
Over the years I have developed what I believe to be a unique theory about how public schools should run, and interestingly enough it has much to do with my passion for football. In my previous post, I mentioned how I would love to do away with public school altogether, but I understand that this is unrealistic and will never happen. Instead, I have developed a theory as to how we can make a flawed system better.
In the National Football League, in the name of competitive parity, there is a salary cap for every team, and there is revenue sharing, so that teams which bring in more fans and sell more merchandise end up giving a lot of money to teams that do not do as well. Sounds communistic right? Well, it is, but the NFL is a single product, not 32 competing economic entities. Similarly, public schools are really part of a single product (public education), but compete with each other for government resources, teachers, and achievement levels. What then can public schools learn from the NFL? The free-agency system.
The tenure system is stupid. You get paid more not because you are a better teacher, but because you have been there longer. I would go on and on about why this is stupid, but I can't imagine anyone saying that the tenure system is a good one. But nobody else is proposing a new system... but I dare to go there today.
A free-agency system would work superbly. The state would give schools a salary cap (which would keep local taxes down), and there is already a built in revenue sharing since the tax revenue from all of the districts is regulated by the state government. At this point, schools could sign teachers to contracts of varying lengths and amounts, all while fitting under the salary cap. It would be the district's job (probably the Superintendent/Principal) to come up with the right mix of teachers to fit under the alloted salary cap. This artificial market-based approach would reward teachers based on their qualifications, experience, and potential as well. Thus, a Harvard educated teacher would get paid like a 1st round draft pick, just as a proven, experienced teacher would get paid like an established NFL veteran.
I think that this system is appealing to everyone. Why wouldn't teachers want to be able to switch schools freely if they get a better offer? Why wouldn't teachers like the idea of being able to renegotiate their contract every few years? Why wouldn't schools like the accountability of teachers needing to perform to earn their money?
Clearly, one drawback is an over-emphasis on achievement scores. But, a good principal would be constantly observing teachers, seeking student input, and so on to get a good understanding of who the best teachers are and who are not.
In my system, the kids win. Almost as much as if all school was privatized...