Martinez is no Saint

In today's News and Observer, puppet Rick Martinez takes on school reform. He's slingin' ideas without facts or reason.

Martinez takes issue with the increases in school funding over the last 10 years. He moans that the increased funding has not lead to increased student performance. With his signature cynicism, he hones in on teacher pay:

The only thing that has enjoyed meaningful growth during that time is teacher compensation, and a lot of good that's done us.

It hurts to hear that anyone seriously thinks we pay our teachers too much.

Martinez goes on to give his prescription for school reform. Without citing any research or facts, he throws out such brilliant free-market ideas such as making teacher pay dependent on student performance and increasing the number of charter schools. Let's put his reform plans under the microscope.

Revolutionize teacher compensation -- The governor and General Assembly must begin to treat teachers like the state employees they are, not as saints-in-training. Give teachers the same basic raise as every other state employee. That doesn't mean overall teacher pay has to be limited. Tie compensation directly to student performance and we'll all be richer when a teacher earns six figures.

Personally, I don't think teachers are saints-in-training... I think they're saints. It's the toughest job I know of that requires a college degree. A starting teacher in North Carolina makes only $28,510. Among other problems, that's nowhere near enough to entice young teachers to the rural communities that pay the state minimum, have the hardest time recruiting staff, and have some of the lowest achievement scores in the state.

The one place where I agree with Martinez is in his suggestion that we could pay more to teachers who choose to teach in underperforming schools or in understaffed subjects like math and science. But he undermines his own suggestion when he suggests that we stop paying teachers more when they've earned post-graduate degrees or achieved National Board Certification. In Martinez's wacky dream, teachers would make up for the lack of pay when we give them "six figures" for improved student performance.

Think about it - paying teachers for student performance means they'll migrate towards districts and schools where students do the best, exacerbating educational gaps. I'd argue that we already do this because the highest achieving districts tend to pay the most. Also, the state's pay for performance system (ABC's) already rewards teachers for being in high performing schools that receive annual bonuses for reching state and federal benchmarks.

There is ample evidence that teachers with National Board Certification enable improved student achievement in multiple subjects across multiple grades. The same is true for getting a graduate degree. North Carolina has made major investment in increasing teacher education and certification because of good policy advice that shows it makes a difference.

Eliminate the cap on charter schools?

Charters are shunned because they're seen as competition. They are, and that's exactly what's needed. For all the talk of educational accountability, nothing much has changed. That's because accountability without competition is meaningless.

Or, perhaps because there's no evidence that they can consistently increase student achievement or create educational innovations that are applicable on a broad basis. Although it has some faulty analysis, this NYT article examines some of the limitations of even the most successful charter schools.

What's Martinez's most ridiculous suggestion?

Eliminating the achievement gap must become the top civil rights priority for minority officials and advocacy groups -- It's not now. How else can you explain their strong support of a public school system that fails half of its children? We minorities need to stop being bought off with hollow promises of diversity and resources. We must demand reform that results in more kids of color earning a diploma, even if the proposal comes from a conservative or a Republican. Our children's future is more important than worn-out political alliances.

How offensive. The best civil rights groups are doing more to shake up public education than Martinez could ever dream of. Check out HKonJ, which is building a new political alliance that includes organizations that are both established and effective. They also recognize that education reform will only truly happen when other civil rights are addressed as well.

I still can't get over that "saints in training" slam. Martinez must not know any teachers. Maybe it's time for him to go back to school.


so let me get this straight

cutting taxes on the rich and rewarding people with cash for everything their parents gave them is admirable, perfect, and a great idea which will lead to a better society.

BUT, paying TEACHERS a big enough salary so that they can do crazy things like eat requires that we ignore private industry?

This isnt the 1950s. Women have more job options than teaching and being a mother. The fact is that schools are competing with private industry to attract teachers (male and female) and our schools are losing. And when schools lose society goes down the drain.

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"


Very nice Graig. Thank you!

My kids go to a charter school. Most of the charter schools I know of are either stronger academically, or they are for special needs. I believe that they need to remain regulated and the cap should stay.

We love our school for the most part. It's wonderful - better than anything we found at CMS. All that being said, I believe it is a choice just like private or home schooling. I don't believe that any money should be diverted from public schools to pay for charter schools. (Don't take away what funding we get, though....please!)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Graig, thanks.

I taught Algebra and Geometry in Apex, NC for several years, and during that time I worked out that my starting salary amounted to between $10 and $11 an hour (and yes, that's factoring in summers).

Great one Graig.

The N&O should be forced to hire a "balancing" journalist who is as far-left as Martinez is far-right. This is why I quit buying their paper, you can get better facts someplace like BlueNC from people with their feet in the water, instead of right-wing talking points from some prima donna.

Where are the candidates?

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Do the math

Schools are in session 180 days/year. $28,510/180 days is $158.39/day or, assuming an 8-hour work day, $19.80/hr. That's not exactly starvation wages. And that's the legal minimum that a teacher can be paid.

Assuming an 8 hour work day?

Are you kidding?

And more to the point, teachers work many more days than the official "in session" count of 180. Ever heard of teacher work days?

I'm guessing you don't have kids.

Teachers work way more than 8 hours a day, as well.

It's one of the reasons I left it. I make more in non-profit management than I can teaching. What does that tell you?

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

I believe dcobranchi homeschools

just like I did. If this is the same person (sorry if I'm wrong) he has an excellent homeschool site/resource for parents.

Most teachers work a week to two weeks before school is in session and a week to two weeks afterward. They go home from school to grade papers/tests, etc. Our teachers are physically at the school working for 9 hours with a working lunch. I can see the $10 - $11/hour and even less per hour for teachers who truly go the extra 20 miles with what little time they have left.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Same person

And thanks for the props.

Not a problem

I wish I'd found you sooner.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.


You will love him when you find out that he had one of Larry's first fund raisers and he doesn't live in his district. He wears a blue bracelet and swears he will not take it off until a Democrat is in the White House. A very cool guy. I met Larry for the first time at his house.


Oh come daughter took a two year

course at a community college, she is now an echo-cardiographer, her starting pay is $25.00 per hour! That's right here in NC which isn't exactly known as a high paying state. TWO YEARS compared to FOUR YEARS, which is more important to our countries future?

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions My Blog

Speaking as a former math teacher, your numbers are horse puckey

The other commenters are right -- that's 180 instructional days, not 180 work days for teachers, who put in days before and after the year begins, extra days during, and many evenings and weekends as well.

Look at it another way: in a school with a six-period day, most teachers teach 5 one-hour classes with one planning period. Over 180 instructional days, that's 900 class periods. That's less than $160 per class taught. Be honest: would you take $160 pre-tax to spend fifty-five minutes marshaling 30 hormone drenched 9th graders (and each age has its own challenges, I know) while also trying to convince them of the utility of the quadratic equation? Keep in mind that each hour comes with at least one more outside of actual instructional time planning lessons, developing assessment tools, grading papers, meeting continuing teacher education requirements, conferencing with parents and dealing with discipline issues. Also keep in mind that a mediocre performance isn't something that can be shrugged off or made up another day -- wasting the time that someone gives to their education is really worse than theft.

It's pretty clear that the people who teach in this system and do it well are people who could be making far more than $28K (and not by a little bit) on the open market; everything between their salary and their market value is a give that they give the state every year. This is part of why I left. I worked hard to become a decent teacher, but when I became familiar with the sacrifice that my senior colleagues (and I worked in a department full of really talented educators) were making, it seemed clear to me that I had three choices: (i) make the sacrifice; (ii) don't make it, stick around, and remain a merely "decent" teacher for the next 30 years; or (iii) get out. (In case it isn't obvious, I went with door number 3.)

One other thing that I don't think has come up yet, but probably will: there is a myth that, once you've been teaching for a while, you just reuse the same lesson plans and tests and basically coast. The tiny core of truth is that there are materials out there - yours, other teachers' and institutional/commercial resources - that you can draw on to create the products you need. But the idea that you do it once and forget about it is not just wrong, it's offensive in that it describes the laziest possible professional attitude. Imagine this response from your lawyer: "I drafted this brief for a similar case back in the 80s; let's just change the names here and send it on to the judge." Or from your accountant: "didn't we file a tax return last year? Why can't we just reuse that one?" I'm sure that there are teachers (and lawyers and accountants) who behave that way, but they aren't getting quality results. And the society (or business or taxpayer) who pays for something better will be free to not hire the slacker.

You left out something

The lovely parents who for some reason think their child and only their child is special for some reason and deserves a good grade whether they earned it or not.

I will swear on a stack of Bibles that I am NOT one of those parents. :)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.


$160/55 minutes? And I'm supposed to feel sorry for you?

I taught chemistry at Salem Community College for less than that.

You know, if it really worked out to that, it would be worth it.

But it doesn't. Public school teachers don't get paid that kind of money in the real world. They do a lot on their own time, and put a lot of their own money into their classrooms. They take a lot of crap from people who think they've got it easy, and that they "get the summers off."

It's not a perfect system, but it's a damn hard job, they're way underpaid, and I surely appreciate the few who've made a huge difference for my son.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

The 1 2

1. How much of my comment did you read? I'm thinking not much, as "$160/55 minutes" is about as inaccurate a summary I can think of, except for maybe "purple polar bears."

2. Well, if you were underpaid, then I guess nobody who makes more is underpaid. You just happened to live right on that line between "underpaid" and "comfortably well off." Did you have some kind of certificate to that effect?

Martinez is not no saint

Martinez is a simple-minded shill for the John Locke Puppetshow. Like all the greeders, he talks a mean game when it comes to education . . . but when it comes time to put his money where his mouth is, he's just another whiny hypocrite.

Thanks for the props

That's what the kids say when they like what you did... "props." Teenagers will keep you young some days and make you feel real old on the others.

SD, I agree that charter schools can be excellent places for student learning. The funding competition that you describe is a problem. The myth I want to blow out of the water is the one that right wingers like the Manhattan Institute promote: charter school competition will make all schools better through innovation and market forces. It's just another right-wing fallacy that everything works best on free-market principles.

As for salaries, I don't care what the math says... Teachers deserve to be paid the six figures that Martinez throws out there as a carrot. Every single one of them deserve it. I work in the public schools every day, but I'm not a teacher. I couldn't do it. Teaching takes skill, heart, and commitment that deserve more compensation than anyone who gets to sit at a computer or a board room all day. (No offense bloggers, I'm on the butt end of that comment too.)

Our public policy needs to reflect the value of teachers and provide incentives for more people to enter the profession. Pay-for-performance scams aren't going to do that.



I don't see them as competition either

They are alternatives and my personal opinion is that they should be used to fill a niche that is difficult to fill in a standard school/classroom. I see them as a choice - not as competition. I absolutely do not think the cap should be raised on the number of charter schools until we see how those that exist perform.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

ever notice how the N and O

ever notice how the N and O puts Martinez on the left side of the op-ed page?

Teachers don't exist

"Teachers deserve to be paid the six figures"
-Quoted from Graig

Teachers in schools period (public even more so) are not just teachers. I'm reminded of my favorite teacher in High School, she wasn't just a teacher she was a counselor, problem solver, the point person her students and students that she never taught went to. She was better than the counselors and administrators. Not only did she help the students during the day she had a club after school so students could express themselves through music and writing, something that NHS didn't have.

Maybe Rick Martinez had a bad experience with teachers when he was in school and is trying to enact his lifelong vendetta against them. However that doesn't mean they don't deserve the respect that is due and then more.

I just read that piece

And none of it, none of it makes sense.

I mean you all hit all the points, but come on, you would think the guy could give 1 even handed idea not spouted by the Right.

Public school educators need to stop regarding charter schools as the enemy. The fact that 40-plus percent of our kids are dropping out is evidence that public schools cannot fulfill every child's needs. We should quit pretending they can. Charters should be used as another option to educate kids who find traditional public schools aren't for them.

Charters are shunned because they're seen as competition. They are, and that's exactly what's needed. For all the talk of educational accountability, nothing much has changed. That's because accountability without competition is meaningless.

Charter schools are like the Holy Grail for "conservative public school reform". It blows my mind each time this is brought up. If you have ever studied education reform and policy, you know that charter schools are a supplement not a REPLACEMENT for traditional public schools.


Our children need to know that some people fought back, when others collaborated.

Our children need to know that some people fought back, when others collaborated.

Ah glasshoppah

You're missing the point. The FMF's want to dismantle public education entirely and turn it over to private corporations. All the charter bulloney is just a smokescreen so they can get their foot in the door and start dividing and conquering.

And why would they want to do that? Because they represent the Party of Greed. They only make money when there is a permanent underclass to work for slave wages. They have a vested interest in promoting and sustaining a caste system. And the average citizens who consistently vote for them are too simple-minded to know they're being exploited.

FMF does not mean Fleet Marine Force. It's "free market fundamentalists."

Actually that makes sense

The best way to divert public school funds is into charter schools without alarming the anti-private anti-voucher crowd.

Still it will never work. With your keen eyes sensei, we are all the wiser.

Our children need to know that some people fought back, when others collaborated.

Our children need to know that some people fought back, when others collaborated.