Monday, October 03, 2011

Fran Tarkenton Compares Union Teachers & Football Players

What if the NFL Played by Teachers' Rules?
Imagine a league where players who make it through three seasons could never be cut from the roster.
By FRAN TARKENTON (from the Wall St. Journal)
Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player's salary is based on how long he's been in the league. It's about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he's an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player's been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

Let's face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?

No matter how much money was poured into the league, it wouldn't get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money.

Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: "They hate football. They hate the players. They hate the fans." The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn't help.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the NFL in this alternate reality is the real -life American public education system. Teachers' salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn't rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they've been teaching. That's it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you're demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation's children.

Inflation-adjusted spending per student in the United States has nearly tripled since 1970. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we spend more per student than any nation except Switzerland, with only middling results to show for it.

Over the past 20 years, we've been told that a big part of the problem is crumbling schools—that with new buildings and computers in every classroom, everything would improve. But even though spending on facilities and equipment has more than doubled since 1989 (again adjusted for inflation), we're still not seeing results, and officials assume the answer is that we haven't spent enough.
These same misguided beliefs are front and center in President Obama's jobs plan, which includes billions for "public school modernization." The popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. We've been spending billions of dollars on school modernization for decades, and I suspect we could keep on doing it until the end of the world, without much in the way of academic results. The only beneficiaries are the teachers unions.

Some reformers, including Bill Gates, are finally catching on that our federally centralized, union-created system provides no incentive for better performance. If anything, it penalizes those who work hard because they spend time, energy and their own money to help students, only to get the same check each month as the worst teacher in the district (or an even smaller one, if that teacher has been there longer). Is it any surprise, then, that so many good teachers burn out or become disenchanted?

Perhaps no other sector of American society so demonstrates the failure of government spending and interference. We've destroyed individual initiative, individual innovation and personal achievement, and marginalized anyone willing to point it out. As one of my coaches used to say, "You don't get vast results with half-vast efforts!"

The results we're looking for are students learning, so we need to reward great teachers who show they can make that happen—and get rid of bad teachers who don't get the job done. It's what we do in every other profession: If you're good, you get rewarded, and if you're not, then you look for other work. It's fine to look for ways to improve the measuring tools, but don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn't working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities, not to the letter of the union contract and federal standards.


Anonymous said...

If the football players did this we would have really smart and experienced players. Maybe not what they want to tackle and run, but definitely what we want in our teachers. Seniority and experience do help teachers but not necessarily sports stars. And our teachers do not get starting salaries anything like the sports world.
Maybe a better argument could be made for any non-union non-public profession like the rest of us at Kodak and Xerox. He is right that seniority should not ensure a job for life with automatic pay increases. But sports figures make enough in their playing years to survive for 10 lifetimes in "retirement" if they don't waste their earnings.

SCATS said...

To 9:33AM ~~ As I look around GCSD, I no longer see that many teachers who are either " really smart and experienced." We got many of the older, more experienced teachers to retire with incentives to reduce the payroll. Lots of Greece teachers are barely older than the HS students they teach ;)

Anonymous said...

Fran T, my new hero!

(But please, could you put a date on this article; I would like to quote from this but want to know when this was published. Thanks).

SCATS said...

To 10:57AM ~~ I do my best to link to the original source so you can get whatever other info you want. It was from Oct. 3rd ;)

Anonymous said...

Every body is an expert in education and has the silver bullet to solve the problems. Now we have Fran Tarkenton as the educational expert publishing an article. He is published only because of his name on the football field from decades ago.

What Fran Tarkenton forgot to tell you is that football players negotiate guranteed minimums into their contacts. An experienced player or a college kid, who has never played a down as an NFL player, can have a 60 million dollar contract with a 35 million dollar GURANTEED clause. That means if his performance goes down, if he is traded, if he sits on the bench, if he is hurt, if he never plays another down because of his performance, he must be paid at least the 35 million over the life of the contract. In addition there is usually a "signing bonus" of millions of dollars.
Yes, in education there is tenure, with it's pluses and minuses. In the NFL they have guranteed minimums, whether they play or not. Please tell me the difference.

Trarkenton has the nerve to go on to say "It's what we do in EVERY profession. If you are good you get rewarded and if you are not, then you look for other work."

Have you ever heard of a doctor testifing againist another doctor? If all doctors are good why do we go for a second opinion? Why do we ask our friends about a particular doctor before a serious medical issue? According to Fran T all the bad doctors are looking for other work.

All attorneys are good. Oh yes, all the bad attorneys have gotten out of the profession. According to Fran T. all the bad attorneys are looking for other work.

All the bankers are good. The Wall St. banking problems were not part of greed. There has not been one arrest and they are back giving themselves bonuses and making more money than ever before.
According to Fran T. all the bad bankers are looking for other work.


Doug Skeet

Anonymous said...


Not all bad dr's, lawyers, or bankers are looking for other work. But many are. A dr. who is bad will eventually lose patients and eventually will have to change professsions. A lawyer who is bad will eventually lose his clients and then need to change professions. A banker who is bad will eventually lose the trust of his clients and the will need to change professions.
A tenured teacher who is bad........well we just have to keep sending kids to them.
That is the difference.
Of course not all bad dr's, lawyers, or bankers are shown the door, but many are. The free market dictates it.
Tenure in elementary/secondary school serves no purpose except to protect the teacher. What is the benefit to the student or community?

Anonymous said...

Please don't forget tenure protects the experienced quality teachers. We have many, many more quality teachers that are protected than bad ones.

Without tenure or some form of protection some school supt. would get rid of teachers making $90,000 and hired a begining teacher at $30,00 and be able to save the $60,000 to keep the tax rate down and make budget.

This was done right here in Greece Central with Walts and Meg Keller. With them it was even worse and more immoral. They went after older, experienced teachers that had medical problems and gave them evaluations and improvement plans that were impossible to meet. They drove out many good teachers.

Walts did not use the money to meet the budget or lower the tax rate but he spend the extra money for his pet projects.

Even with tenure he/she got teachers to voluntary resign.

Look what Kodak and Xerox did with their employees. There are many stories and I personally know men that were let go with one and two years to go before for their retiremnt time. It cut their pension and health insurance. No protection experienced, expensive good employees gone. Keep the cheaper employee.



Anonymous said...

Doug is living in another world.

Some form of tenure is not needed; what is needed is some form of objective evaluation of teachers and administrators.

Two and three year moving averages of performance to both receive pay increases and pay decreases is needed. Both good and bad performance should be viewed from the perspective of a few years.

However there is no reason any student should have to endure an unqualified teacher. What opportunities do parents have to get a second opinion of a teacher?
I can fire my bank, my doctor, and my lawyer. In practical terms, it can take years to fire a poor teacher. In that time hundreds of kids could be hurt.

I have a relative who is a school principal in another state; he particularly cringes at paying wornout so-so teachers $75,000 while being unable to hire two eager teachers at $35,000. He states that the older the teacher, the more difficult it is to work with them on improvement plans.
It is worth the effort to get rid of unqualified teachers but the system is set up to protect the so-so teachers.

Another "expert" has spoken!!
You do not have to be an "expert" to have opinion.

Anonymous said...


The question remains.

What is the benefit of tenure to the student and community?

I understand that tenure benefits teachers with seniority. I just don't see a benefit to community at large.

If a person is qualified and performing well at their position, they generally need not worry about being fired. While I am sure that there are exceptions, I would bet they are few and far between. If a teacher is fired unjustly, there is a legal recourse, just like for everyone else in our society.

Imagine how innovative and creative our teachers might become if they had to continuously improve and evolve in order to demonstrate efficency at their job. Continuos improvement is the key to success in private industry.

Tenure removes all incentive to improve and innovate.

Anonymous said...

Walts also found a way to take advantage of the early retirement incentive in 1998 and many many teachers that might have had to wait for years were given retirement with full benefits and making 80% of their last years salary for life. Those people were in some cases 52 years old. Nice package.
Yes he did use the system to assess many of the teachers young and old. Some of the more senior were not used to that form of monitoring and evaluation and observation.Previously it was more of a formality. Eval every 3 years and do an observation and take the teacher to lunch. He changed that and the older teachers did not like him criticizing them. So he left and is appreciated elsewhere. Everyone is happy now?

Anonymous said...

So Doug, the art teacher is worth the same as the math teacher?

Someone gets a raise reguardless of performance?

As someone pointed out in Greece you don't even have to come to work, sure enough you get a raise.

Stick to the issue Doug. We did not get into this mess without a whole bunch of people screwing off at all levels and our answer as Mr. Tarkenton identifies is we give them raises and that makes no sence. On top of that we wonder why we are not improveing ooooh thats right it's someone elses fault.

Anonymous said...

I know it's popular to demonize Steve Walts and good 'ole Meg, but the fact remains that the teachers "targeted" were not doing their job well! It's too bad that we ended up letting someone like Donlon (there are many others but she made her case famous)retire with full benefits when years of poor performance should have bounced her out of the system before too much damage was dine. 7:07's point about teacher evaluations is accurate.

Charlie Hubbard said...

First of all Scats, thanks for this posting. Maybe this analogy will wake some up as to a big part of whats wrong with the public education monopoly.

I have always said you can't fix a problem until 'all' admit there 'is' a problem. Those within the system have yet to admit there is a problem. We know this because few if any have come forth with anything other than excusses such as the postings about Walts and or Meg knowing little to nothing about the particulars and using these as diversions from the base problem - NO ACCOUNTABILITY.

More to come but for now I hope others see that until ALL within the system are 'accountable' for the product being produced only a true FOOL would throw more money at this system. Taxpayers have been getting 'screwed' - PERIOD. Our kids have been getting 'shortchanged' - PERIOD.

Let us not forget this has been going on thanks in a big part to school board(s) kissing the unions backside and approving (do-nothing) (worthless) (give-away) contracts as Fran Tarkenton dicribed and NOT representing the taxpayers that elected them.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE, somebody name me any other "profession" where the practitioner is fully protected from the result of their job performance as Union Teachers are.

The only thing the Union crop of clowns seems able to teach is deviant behavior and self esteem.

Anonymous said...

Shoot. Why does everyone think it's so hard to evaluate a teacher?

After all, isn't education a precise, clearly measureable phenomenon, much like a manufacturing business with discrete, objectively describable parameters? Input = quantity X of raw material, (students), quantity Y of labor (instruction). Output = quantity X of students with
knowledge/skills increased by increment of Z. Givens: quantity X of students are identical learning units, quantity Y of instruction has been scientifically demonstrated to work on all students equally, and is delivered at exactly the same time and in the same manner to all
students, and increment Z will be clearly demonstrable on a standardized measurement instrument. Any teacher whose students do not demonstrate attainment of increment Z within the prescribed time is incompetent, and will not have a job. Simple, huh?

SCATS said...

To 7PM ~~ Really, it's not all that complicated. Every job comes with specific duties one is expected to accomplish to some predetermined standard, whether it's been enumerated in writing, verbally or not. If you continually fail to impart the curriculum into the noggin's of most students, you should be fired. What's so tough to understand about that?

Anonymous said...

What's that "noggins of most students" crap?

I say noggins of ALL students.

Furthermore, what the hell are we doing paying any glorified babysitter $90,000 a year for what's essentially a part-time job?

Doug, you're very very wrong about tenure. All it does is reward lazy union thugs.
If it's cheaper to can all the costly "teachers" and go with less expensive models, let's do it.

I don't think any teacher, ever should earn a base salary higher than $35,000 no matter how long they've been doing it. Don't these union thugs know who's paying their salaries? We just can't afford to pay babysitters any more than that.

I also say get rid of tenure. And if 100 percent of all your students don't meet or exceed standards at the end of the school year, then you're gone. That's it. Fired. Go get a job slinging burgers at Mickey D's. That's all you're good for anyway, if you can even cut that. It's simple and easy.

And if we're paying you $35,000 for your part-time job, we expect results above and beyond the minimum.

We'll pay for that too...

If 100 percent of your students are rated at mastering the standards at the end of the year, you get a $1,000 bonus.

If 100 percent of your school's students master standards, you get another $1,000 bonus.

If 100 percent of all district students graduate on time and with math and english scores of 80 percent or higher, you get a $5,000 bonus.

That's even being generous. Teachers probably shouldn't get bonuses either.

Getting 100 percent of students to master standards and graduate on time IS YOUR JOB.

It's time to quit the whining about special needs and poverty and lazy kids and bad parents. Tough. Those are just excuses for your own failures.

7 p.m. might be trying to be satirical, but you fail too. That sounds like a great way to measure how effective these glorified babysitters really are. It's just teaching, something any monkey can do, not rocket science.

Anonymous said...

"PLEASE, somebody name me any other "profession" where the practitioner is fully protected from the result of their job performance as Union Teachers are."


Anonymous said...

"...the teachers "targeted" were not doing their job well!"

Yes, that is the W/K-C mantra (and the initiation of the "culture of blame". Let's use another W/K-C mantra: Data driven decision making.

Data says: Greece students perform poorly on NYS standardized tests.

Using your line of reasoning:
1. The wrong people were targeted-and-purged -or-
2. The purge must continue

Which is it?

SCATS said...

To 8:45AM ~~ As if I receive ANY compensation! Keep dreaming ;)

To 9:02AM ~~ I don't see your line of reasoning since the person named in that other comment was able to remain until her recent retirement.

Anonymous said...

Yup, sure must be dang near impossible to evaluate performance of a Union "teacher".

Probably a difficulty with the Union part.

Seems like they don't have trouble evaluating teachers in Catholic and other religious schools, and we know the Charter Schools find it completely impossible too. They even pay lower salary and have a line of candidates waiting.

Gotta be the Union part of the evaluating that's impossible!

Seen any tenured Nurses at a hospital lately? How about tenured cops?

Anonymous said...

So Doug, what do you think now?