Education Reform

09.25.1212:03 PM ET

Sorry, Teachers, You Can't Have it All

Reihan Salam laughs off the idea that, in an era of fiscal crunch for states and municipalities, teachers should reasonably expect both increased wages and smaller class sizes.

Reducing class sizes will mean increasing hiring, which will increasing the compensation budget for school districts even if compensation levels remain the same. To increase class sizes at the same time that we increase compensation levels would mean either allowing compensation to crowd out other educational expenditures or increasing educational budgets. The decidedly ambiguous evidence in favor of reduction suggests that this is not a good bet, particularly since it would be far easier to increase compensation levels if we allowed for somewhat higher student-teacher ratios.

If we instead allowed the most effective teachers to take on more students in exchange for more compensation, as under the Gold Star Teachers proposal, we could rapidly improve the quality of teaching experienced by the median student. But of course something like the Gold Star Teachers proposal in an existing school district — as opposed to a “relinquished” charter school district — would have to rest on something like value-added analysis.

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