Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm wants to push nearly 40,000 veteran teachers into retirement to eliminate their hefty salaries from the state’s 2011 budget. The plan, introduced to state lawmakers last Friday and discussed in her final State of the State speech yesterday, would save an estimated $230 million a year, but it would also leave students with a much less experienced cadre of teachers at a time when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says the nation’s graduate schools are not adequately preparing our next crop of educators.
In recent years, Gov. Granholm has been lambasted by critics who say she’s not doing enough to avert or manage the state’s long-running unemployment and budget deficit crisis. Retiring teachers is part of Granholm’s plan to silence her critics, some say, but at what cost? In a speech delivered last fall at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Duncan quoted from a report that described today’s teacher education programs as subjective, obscure, faddish, out-of-touch, and politically correct. He and other education reformers consider high-quality teachers the most important piece of student achievement, so Granholm’s plan to usher seasoned veterans out the door without first assessing the quality of their replacements seems risky.
Whether Granholm’s proposal gets enacted or not, the country’s teachers will have to heed Duncan’s call for improvement soon: About half of the 3.2 million teachers in the workforce are Baby Boomers, and Duncan expects school districts will need to replace a million of them over the next four years as they retire… by choice.