The fight for the pooling equilibrium

DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee is proposing a new compensation plan for DC teachers:

Ms. Rhee has not proposed abolishing tenure outright. Under her proposal, each teacher would choose between two compensation plans, one called green and the other red. Pay for teachers in the green plan would rise spectacularly, nearly doubling by 2010. But they would need to give up tenure for a year, after which they would need a principal's recommendation or face dismissal.

Teachers who choose the red plan would also get big pay increases but would lose seniority rights that allow them to bump more-junior teachers if their school closes or undergoes an overhaul. If they were not hired by another school, their only options would be early retirement, a buyout or eventual dismissal.

The problem for the teacher, of course, is that if you join Plan Red, you pretty much automatically signal that a principal should think twice before hiring you.  And even under the red plan, principals no longer have to hire you.

I think Rhee is right about tenure:  it's great for adults, but it's hard to argue that making it impossible to fire a teacher is good for children.  The cases of beleaguered teachers being attacked for their ideas are mediagenic, but most teachers are fired for more prosaic reasons . . . and indeed, the theatrical cases of teachers egregiously abusing their tenure at the expense of their children seem to be much greater in number.

On the other hand, I also think that teacher tenure is a class Public Choice problem of diffuse costs and concentrated benefits, and I'll be surprised if Rhee actually succeeds:

Ms. Rhee and Mr. Klein are hardly the first public officials to inveigh against tenure, but few have succeeded in weakening it. Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, persuaded Georgia lawmakers to repeal the state's teacher tenure law in 2000. But two years later, angry teachers helped elect Georgia's first Republican governor since Reconstruction, who promptly restored job protections for teachers.

If Rhee's plan goes down, it will indicate that a majority of DC's teacher's think that they're incompetent.  Which does comport with the data coming out of DC schools . . .

More on Rhee from our very own pages.