On Second Tier Candidates

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Dana Goldstein writes this week about the issues some second-tier candidates are talking about in their bids to move up with the big boys. She mentions Bill Richardson several times, most notably in his talk of New Mexico’s system of paying teachers:

After the debate, leading education blogger Alexander Russo reported that a Santa Fe New Mexican reporter emailed him to say Richardson’s claims were somewhat overblown: The minimum salary for New Mexico public school teachers isn’t $40,000 but $30,000, with a three-tiered evaluation system for salary increases based on performance. New Mexico is one of only a few states to experiment with merit pay for teachers, a move traditionally opposed by powerful teacher’s unions. Indeed, linking teacher pay to metrics like student scores on standardized tests could penalize the professionals willing to take on the toughest assignments teaching the most underprivileged children.

But while tying teacher pay to performance is controversial, it’s understood that the tenure system gives too many bad teachers a free pass. So compromises in which unions win higher starting salaries and benefits like housing vouchers (many teachers can’t afford to live in the communities in which they work) in exchange for administrators having the power to remove the worst teachers from the classroom, regardless of tenure status, amount to a move in the right direction.

Richardson’s sense of urgency on education reform should be applauded. Perhaps it’s because as a governor, he’s one of the few candidates in the Democratic field with hands-on experience crafting education policy.

There’s lots more, so check it out. Also, check out Heath’s speculation that Richardson may be moving up to the big leagues anyway, so this “second-tier” talk might be a thing of the past.

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