Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, believes that major problems with the state’s worst schools could be fixed by paying certified teachers more money, increasing tenure standards and allowing administrators to more easily fire underperforming teachers, among other changes.
Gansler released an education reform plan this week that he says will reduce the achievement gap between low-income and wealthier students. The plan calls for major changes in the state’s teacher force, expanding pre-kindergarten, making it easier for parents to get involved, encouraging attendance, modernizing schools and offering more technology courses.
Gansler said these changes and initiatives will be paid for by finding inefficiencies in the state budget and redirecting that money.
“We need to do more to help all of our students succeed,” the plan states. “[I]t’s not fair to our students who are sitting in classrooms in low-performing schools not to demand more from our education and state leaders.”
Gansler has repeatedly accused his opponent, Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, of ignoring this inequality and not doing enough to end it. Brown said during a debate May 7 that Maryland “leads the nation when it comes to reducing the achievement gap by income,” although there is still more work to do.
The most controversial part of Gansler’s education plan focuses on ensuring that all teachers are “competent.” Rather than upping pay for teachers who earn a master’s degree, Gansler suggests increasing the salaries of teachers who gain National Board Certification to $100,000. Teachers who choose to work in under-performing schools could earn a $20,000 bonus over four years. He also wants to encourage experienced teachers to mentor colleagues who are new or struggling, and for leaders of successful schools to share their tactics with lower-performing schools.
Gansler also proposes making it more difficult for teachers to gain tenure, ending “permanent tenure for chronically ineffective teachers” and empowering principals to more easily fire ineffective staff.
“Doing this requires shaking up the status quo — the old ways of doing things are clearly not serving all of our kids — so naturally those who like the old ways won’t like all of the proposals I outline,” Gansler writes in the plan.
Sean Johnson, assistant executive director for political and legislative affairs at the Maryland State Education Association, said that some of Gansler’s ideas are already in place or are unnecessary. MSEA, which lobbies on behalf of teachers, has endorsed Brown in the democratic primary.
Johnson said that he is concerned that some of Gansler’s proposals regarding teacher pay could undo collective bargaining. He added that Maryland does not have “permanent tenure” and teachers who receive two bad evaluations are put on a type of probationary status.
“His education proposal shows a stunning lack of knowledge about Maryland’s education system,” Johnson said Thursday. He said the Gansler has continued “a reckless, irresponsible attack on teachers.”