19th 2014
Jeffco Teacher “Sickout” Has Me Feeling Sick… And Confused

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Having to write this kind of post makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. Why would some teachers walk out on kids, enough to close down two Jeffco high schools? The headline from a 9News story points to the only two possibilities I can see: AP US History or teacher pay raises.

What… some teachers don’t like pay raises? I doubt it. But the plan approved last night by the Jeffco school board gives 99 percent of teachers a boost in take-home pay. For 98 percent of teachers, it’s either a 2.43% increase if they earned an effective rating, or a 4.25% increase if they earned a highly effective rating. In fact, many weeks ago, the board agreed to increase the total amount available for employee pay increases — from $11.7 million to $18.2 million!

Is that so terrible? Only 66 less-than-effective teachers are left out of the extra salary, but even they get all of their increased PERA retirement costs covered by district taxpayers. New teacher base salary was raised from $33,616 to $38,000. And in an unusually generous move, teachers on the highest end of the scale ($81,031) get a one-time stipend based on their evaluation rating.

The kicker is this. The union-backed “step increase” plan would have left about 450 teachers out of a pay increase, many more than in the proposal approved by the board. Maybe there’s some other reason for JCEA’s less fair plan. Like, they don’t think we ought to distinguish the best teachers and pay them a little more, or they just enjoy the power and control over making sure everyone gets paid the same based on seniority and the number of graduate courses completed.

Then there’s the curriculum issue. Some have gone as far as to make fun of the board for bringing up a conversation about how U.S. history is taught in Jeffco public schools. That’s pretty sad and immature in itself. I don’t have a big opinion on the whole Advanced Placement U.S. history discussion (though Rick Hess has expressed the most sensible views).

Really, though, is just bringing up the idea of having a community review board worthy of a teacher “sickout”? The school board hasn’t even voted on the idea of forming a committee, much less made any recommendations or curriculum changes. Jeffco boards have organized this kind of committee in the past.

But if this is genuinely the issue behind the turmoil, and teachers are interested in knowing what is going on in AP history classes, shouldn’t they stage a “walk-in” rather than a “walkout”? I mean, throw open the doors of the classrooms. Surely, they aren’t hiding anything, or threatened by a community curriculum discussion? Once again, the real threat seems to be that the union is losing control of the process.

The JCEA released a statement (quoted in the 9News story) that says the union didn’t “organize” the sickout. (Depends on what the meaning of “organize” is… you know?)

Nonetheless, that leaves wide open the question of what JCEA’s role, its level of involvement, has been. It looks from my vantage point like they just wanted another chance to accuse a board that has increased transparency of being secretive, that has been fiscally prudent of being wasteful, and that has offered nearly all teachers significant pay raises of being disrespectful. Seriously?

Five and 10 years ago, the sickouts came from Boulder Valley. Today, it’s in Jeffco. No matter where it is, this kind of action that puts kids in the middle of a political power play makes me feel sick.

And given the likely justifications for this course of action, it also has me feeling downright confused, as well. Here’s hoping it begins and ends today.


21 Responses to “Jeffco Teacher “Sickout” Has Me Feeling Sick… And Confused”

  1. Regan Benson on 19 Sep 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    There are 46 cases moving through a Jefferson County courtroom involving continuing and new prosecution of kids and families, on truancy issues, TODAY- September 19th.

    No prosecution in order for teachers violating state law? Who are the criminals in this scenario?

  2. John Smitj on 19 Sep 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Jeffco BOE equals fascism! You have zero concept of reality. Not everyone is gung-ho about just allowing some tea party fascists to brainwash kids into thinking that the USA is infallible. Jeffco BOE: “slavery never happened and MLKjr hated America!”

    The disease of conservatism will NOT be allowed to destroy freedom!

  3. Carissa on 19 Sep 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    This post is just flat out uneducated. This is not just a simple matter of not wanting to be evaluated and not wanting pay to be based on evaluation. Think of the teachers in low income neighborhoods with families and children who come and go WEEKLY. Think about how it is that you would bring your students up to grade level when they come and go so frequently or when they aren’t even getting the nutrition they need to focus, or any sense of consistency in their home life. Now imagine that even if your students did show growth but did not reach grade level, and your livlihood consequently suffers because you were only “partially effective”. No matter that your kids learned to read, or do math, etc. If they are reading at a kindergarten level in third grade, the fact that they learned to read means nothing. Teachers are being grossly undervalued and taking a financial hit for circumstances way beyond their control (i.e. the many effects of poverty on children). Maybe the thing that should be making you sick is how teachers are being so undervalued and how kids are starting to become valued only as statistics.

  4. Carissa J. on 19 Sep 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    Imagine this:

    You teach in a neighborhood in which the majority of your students live in low-income families and neighborhoods. The families constantly move in and out of hotels, live out of cars, shelters, etc. Children move in and out of your school on a weekly basis. The only meals that many of the children get are the meals provided at school, or meals that the schools send home with the children. How well do you focus when you haven’t eaten in days, or when your eating schedule is inconsistent at best? How much are you able to focus when your home-life is in chaos or when you don’t know where you are going to be living from day to day? My guess is not well.

    Now imagine that your class of 3rd graders comes into your classroom not even knowing how to read. Many of these students may not even speak English. At the end of the year, you have taught them to read and they are reading at a kindergarten level. Now, even though you have done the extraordinary – taught students experiencing the turmoil of poverty or students who speak different languages how to read, , you receive a “partially effective” rating because your students aren’t reading at a 3rd grade level. You weren’t able to bring a group of students who didn’t know how to read to a 3rd grade level in a year. What are the odds? And yet your livelihood takes a hit because you didn’t turn your students into a perfect statistic. You may have taught them a life-skill that would be hard to be successful without.. but you didn’t do enough.

    Perhaps what should sicken you is the fact that children are becoming valued only as a statistic. If they make gains, these gains means nothing if they don’t reach a certain “score” because if they don’t reach that score, schools don’t get funding. Perhaps what should sicken you is that AMAZING teachers are losing their jobs and/or pay because they are teaching children but not teaching to a test. The problem is not that teachers do not want to be evaluated. The problem is not that teachers are greedy. The problem is that the expectations of the evaluations are unfair an unrealistic.

  5. Sandy Buitron on 19 Sep 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    Gee what “sickens” me is that people still don’t understand the fault in the pay raises that were approved. Clearly they don’t work for Jefferson County public schools or are even an educator because what the teachers do not approve of is the evaluation process let’s not forget that the process is flawed. No fellow educator that I know would be upset withal raises or being evaluated is the evaluation was valid. Let’s also not forget that teachers haven’t gotten pay raises for several years. As far as I know it’s not against the law to be sick. There is also no teachers union it’s an association very different from a union. Doesn’t look Ed is watching too clearly or maybe he just needs a better set of glasses.

  6. Lisa polacaek on 20 Sep 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    I really hope you continue to do some more research before posting uneducated opinions on the web. As a mom, and educator, I am shaking in my boots about the choices the school board is making for my kids! I knew I wouldn’t make tons of money being a teacher but I never thought I would be asked to not teach factual history to students so they could make better choices. I never thought I would have to put myself against my colleges to get a raise, and I always thought my education (which I paid for from my own pocket) would be valued. PLEASE go to a board meeting, PTA meeting or sit in a classroom before you write more about education. Your vast knowledge, or lack there of, could hurt my children’s future.

  7. Eddie on 23 Sep 2014 at 10:08 am #

    To equate the local school board with fascism and then attack this post for having “zero concept of reality” and describe a major political view of many Americans as a “disease” provides a sharp picture of irony. If the Board had voted or even spoken out in favor of the things you describe, we’d all have a reason to be up in arms. We can agree that freedom is a great American core value, can’t we?

  8. Eddie on 23 Sep 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Except that 98%+ of teachers were rated effective or higher, and teachers were not assigned ratings in any way based on student test score status (I would argue against that, too). What undervalues teachers more and values them only as statistics: A pay system that pays everyone the same based on years of experience and graduate courses completed, or a system that starts to reward performance by giving highly effective teachers even more?

  9. Eddie on 23 Sep 2014 at 10:25 am #

    So… teachers don’t want to accept pay raises from a system that is less than perfect? The traditional steps-and-lane salary schedule has widely been recognized as “flawed” for years, but no one protested that. No one protested when teacher raises weren’t given out. Isn’t it fair then to deduce that the problem comes with leaving behind the “flawed” status quo they know for a less-than-perfect pay plan that is based less on union collective bargaining power and more on individual merit?

    No evaluation system is perfect (because yes, we are all “flawed”), but it’s a fair debate to discern how meaningful an evaluation system is. Questions: Has there been any systematic analysis of the evaluation system to show there is significant unfairness? Before the fact-finders report released in August, were there complaints about the evaluation system being significantly unreliable or untrustworthy? Don’t teachers retain the right to appeal an unjust evaluation rating? Would you argue that identifying 98% of teachers as effective or higher is too low a number? The end result is that nearly all teachers in Jeffco did come out ahead after years without a pay raise — in fact more teachers than if the union proposal had won out.

    And yes, I said union. The three most prominent definitions of “labor union” available are “an organized association of workers, often in a trade or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests” and “an organization intended to represent the collective interests of workers in negotiations with employers over wages, hours and working conditions” and “an organization of wage earners or salaried employees for mutual aid and protection and for dealing collectively with employers.” How does this not accurately describe JCEA?

  10. Eddie on 23 Sep 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Lisa, thanks for your comment. No one has asked you “to not teach factual history to students.” We would all be up in arms together about that. The board discussed (then tabled, never voted on) a proposal put forward by one member to seat a committee of community members (which certainly could include teachers) to review district history curriculum. There were some problems with the original wording, and from what I’ve seen they’ve been addressed. I’m not sure what you mean by putting yourself against your “colleges to get a raise,” though. In any case, none of these things rise to the level of bringing students into the middle of a disagreement, enough to close down two high schools.

    I have been to board meetings, and when I miss them in person, I sometimes watch online or go back to listen to key parts later. I have visited classrooms in the recent past, but am not sure how doing more of that would change my informed opinions on performance pay or teacher sickouts.

    I am fine with disagreements, and thankful that not everyone has the same opinion. But we don’t have the same convenience regarding facts. And I haven’t seen anything in any of the critical comments here that suggest any incorrect information or significant omissions to what’s posted here. Please read what’s written in the post and in the comments, and let me know if there is.

    It sure seems like a lot of half-truths and misinformation are floating around the district. I’ve seen plenty of it in writing, too — including inaccurate criticisms of what the board has done. There are legitimate criticisms, disagreements, and points of discussion to be had, but some people are too willing to believe the worst without doing their homework. Clarity is what I’m looking for.

  11. Ed is Watching » More Research Could Highlight Real Promise of Blended Learning on 23 Sep 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    [...] seemed like a good day to get out of the hot kitchen and look at a topic I haven’t addressed in awhile: blended learning. You know what I mean. [...]

  12. ‘A’ Is for Agitation: What’s Really Going on in Jefferson County Schools — ConservativeVoiceConservativeVoice — Your source for everything about conservatives! — News and tweets about everything conservatives on 25 Sep 2014 at 11:26 pm #

    [...] pay. The JeffCo school board approved the new compensation system last week, which rewards the most highly effective teachers with 4.2 percent raises, effective teachers with 2.4 raises and [...]

  13. ‘A’ Is for Agitation: What’s Really Going on in Jefferson County Schools on 26 Sep 2014 at 12:45 am #

    [...] pay. The JeffCo school board approved the new compensation system last week, which rewards the most highly effective teachers with 4.2 percent raises, effective teachers with 2.4 raises and [...]

  14. ‘A’ Is for Agitation: What’s Really Going on in Jefferson County Schools | Grumpy Opinions on 26 Sep 2014 at 10:44 am #

    [...] pay. The JeffCo school board approved the new compensation system last week, which rewards the most highly effective teachers with 4.2 percent raises, effective teachers with 2.4 raises and [...]

  15. Ed is Watching » Jefferson County’s Ongoing Case of the Blue Flu on 29 Sep 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    [...] framework and the new pay-for-performance system in the district, which readers will remember I wrote about in detail when news of the sick outs first [...]

  16. Ed is Watching » Positive Movement in Jeffco: A Welcome Change on 20 Nov 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    [...] up and brace yourselves for more negativity quite yet, though; today’s post will isn’t about teacher sick-outs, student protests, or an inexplicable disdain for more representative curriculum review committees. [...]

  17. Ed is Watching » Eddie’s Top Posts of 2014: Part Two on 31 Dec 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    [...] from two high schools in Jeffco staged a sickout, forcing the schools to close. Like most people, I found myself feeling confused (and a little sick to my stomach) when the news broke. What exactly were the teachers protesting? To what extent was the teachers [...]

  18. Ed is Watching » A(New)PUSH for Truth in American History on 31 Jul 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    [...] of you remember the teacher sickouts and student walkouts last fall. Initially, we were told—amid many “ums” and “uhs”—that [...]

  19. Michelle Malkin | » ‘A’ Is for Agitation: What’s Really Going on in Jefferson County Schools on 18 Aug 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    [...] pay. The JeffCo school board approved the new compensation system last week, which rewards the most highly effective teachers with 4.2 percent raises, effective teachers with 2.4 raises and [...]

  20. Ed is Watching » Little Eddie’s Look Back at 2015 on 31 Dec 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    [...] stole the education spotlight for much of the second half of the year. After 2014’s union-driven teacher sickouts, student walkouts, and manufactured controversy over the now-admittedly slanted 2014 A.P. U.S. [...]

  21. 004_Jeffco Union Rewrites History, Fuels Protests — by Ross Izard | Gramma Griizzly's Corner on 14 Feb 2016 at 8:20 pm #

    [...] past couple weeks’ unrest is Jeffco’s new strategic compensation structure.  Yet the new plan gives 99% of teachers a raise in a district where step increases have been frozen for years.  There are still some wrinkles to [...]

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