October 09, 2013 Print

25,000 teachers paid more than the national teacher of the year

The 2013 National Teacher of the Year, Jeff Charbonneau of Zillah School District, wrote recent column in the Seattle Times.

I am very impressed with Mr. Charbonneau.  I admire his commitment to improve graduation rates and his ability to inspire students to reach higher levels of learning. His innovative approaches and the Zillah leadership team's acceptance of change are responsible for Zillah's graduation rate of 96% and 18 high school classes awarding college credits.

Because the Freedom Foundation assembles the teacher salary information, I looked into how our state funding machine rewards such an excellent teacher.

I discovered that about 25,000 teachers get paid more than the National Teacher of the Year. Why? Mr. Charbonneau is paid less because he is young.

Our funding system treats all educators like identical parts in a factory. Each year for 16 years, pay automatically increases to reward seniority but not excellence. Those with less seniority get paid less, and they also have less protection from moves or dismissal due to declining enrollment.

In recent years, Zillah has had declining student enrollment. If Mr. Charbonneau's seniority were too low, Zillah would have been required by their collective bargaining agreement to lay off the teacher who was honored by the President of the United States for his excellence. It has happened to another teacher of the year

The monopoly approach to education presumes "one size fits all." But neither students nor teachers benefit from such an approach. Instead, our system should celebrate and reward excellence from teachers like Mr. Charbonneau.  


Jami Lund

Senior Policy Analyst

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