DENVER – Douglas County School Board President John Carson took to the airwaves on Thursday to discuss an innovative new rating system that could mean 9 percent pay raises for the best teachers, and make it easier for the district to attract and retain top-notch educators.
In an appearance on the 850KOA radio program The Mike Rosen Show, Carson defended the bold reforms undertaken by the school board, and responded to union claims of declining teacher morale and what he described as other “misinformation” disseminated by union officials.
Touching on the question of morale, Rosen asked Carson if the school district had encountered any difficulty in filling teaching vacancies.
“Do you have any shortage of applicants for teaching jobs should any open up?” Rosen asked Carson.
“No, we have tens of thousands,” Carson responded. “Teachers around the state know this is the highest performing school district in the state by far when you take a look at the money we get…we get the lowest per pupil [state] funding and the highest results.”
Carson also defended the new teacher ranking system, which would reward the most effective educators, adding that the system was developed by teachers themselves.
At least one union official has claimed that the development of the new framework was not transparent.
“[The union is] putting a lot of misinformation out there and attacking the school district,” said Carson. “[Union officials] didn’t get their way, so they are going to attack the teachers and the students and the school district.”
“The ratings system, contrary to the union’s disinformation, was developed by the teachers – hundreds of teachers were involved in the development of this system,” Carson told Rosen.
“We’re increasing pay and benefits [for teachers] on average 5.2 percent, building on raises from last year,” Carson added. “If you’re in the top category [of highly effective teachers], you can see a raise and benefit increase of up to 9 percent.”
Those raises are a direct result of the district’s frugality, Carson said.
“That’s all possible because of the sound fiscal management – cutting out the layers of administrators,” said Carson. “And now we’re able to reward the great teachers we have.”
Carson’s reference to the DCSD’s frugal budgeting was a jab at union backers, who have assailed the board for running a multimillion dollar surplus in the midst of a lean economy, and for a decision to end taxpayer funding for union executives’ salaries.
Before the board’s move, a number of full-time union leaders were taking district salaries despite spending no time in the classroom.
“What we found was that the union wasn’t representing the interests of teachers,” Carson said of the decision to cut off public funding for the union. “It was basically a political organization that took the dues and sent it to Washington, DC.”
“We want the money in the classroom, [so] we cut off the [union executives] salaries that were being paid with taxpayers’ dollars,” Carson told Rosen.
Despite the withering criticism from pro-union political groups, education reform backers remain optimistic that the school board’s fiscal policies and new evaluation system will help Douglas County recruit and retain the best teachers, and maintain the district’s high standards.
“I’m very confident that we’re going to end up with a model for Colorado,” Carson concluded.