Teachers union's argument against incentive program is undercut by its own policy

02/17/2011 08:09 AM

The state’s largest local teachers union argued against a program by saying it could encourage good teachers to leave failing schools even though the union’s own collective bargaining agreement does just that, Kentucky’s education commissioner said.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said on Pure Politics Wednesday that the Jefferson County Teachers Association’s position against the AdvanceKentucky program seemed at odds with the organization’s own demands.

Brent McKim, the JCTA president, said on the program last week that the union had opposed the AdvancedKentucky program that provides money for training and incentives for teachers of Advanced Placement classes in math, science and English. The reason: it might encourage good teachers to leave struggling schools to go schools with students who enter those courses better prepared — and thus might produce more high scores on the AP exams.

But Holliday referred to a report by the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability that said the JCTA’s collective bargaining agreement allowed teachers with a certain amount of experience to leave struggling schools.

He said the union must have a “misunderstanding” about the AdvanceKentucky program.

“How could you … be in opposition to more kids learning at higher levels and teachers getting great training and support? I just don’t understand how any educator could be against that,” he said.

The program, funded with $12 million from ExxonMobil and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, is “one large success story for Kentucky,” Holliday said.

The program has been aimed at bolstering the AP courses in low-achieving schools, he said.

“If you talk to teachers in the 44 schools, they’re very positive about the program,” he said. Pure Politics featured AdvanceKentucky on its Feb. 7 edition.

- Ryan Alessi


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