When one Hamilton County Board of Education candidate was asked this week what he thought about President Barack Obama's idea of yanking good teachers out of the schools in which they're teaching and plunking them in what the president called "the poorest schools," he didn't mince words.
"That would never work," he said. "People would stop supporting [the schools]."
But Obama, by signing yet another one of his executive orders to get around Congress, will require states to submit plans to do just that by April 2015 and will authorize $4.2 million for support of the plan in states and districts.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids around the country who are not getting the kind of teaching they need ... because we're not doing enough to put a lot of our teachers in a position to succeed," the president said.
Let's think about that.
If "we're not doing enough to put a lot of our teachers in a position to succeed," shouldn't it be incumbent on the "we" to give the teachers the tools they need to succeed?
Obama said the "least experienced teachers, the ones with the least support, often end up in the poorest schools."
If you do take the "least experienced teachers" and put them in schools that are not the "poorest," that still doesn't change their experience. It only worsens the learning environment for the students who are taught by the "least experienced teachers."
Obama didn't say it, but the idea smacks of the income equality arguments he likes to make. That, in so many words, if we just take from the rich (whatever middle-class income he's now referring to as rich) and give to the poor, the world will purr ever so much better.
A better idea, one that a number of Hamilton County school board candidates advocate, is to put the best practices in all of the schools. Hire only the best trained, most enthusiastic and child-centered teachers for all schools. Take the ideas that have worked in magnet schools, charter schools and traditional public schools that are high performoing and export them to all schools. Fire principals and teachers who do not promote a sound learning environment, do not value students and are there for only the paycheck.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who either hadn't considered the idea very thoroughly or was afraid to comment, declined to say Monday what would happen if a state refused to go along with the idea.
"I'm optimistic the overwhelming majority of states want to do this and have the heart for this work," he said.
If this is such a great idea, why haven't states and local school districts frequently played fruit-basket turnover with their most highly skilled teachers? Why not have them move from "poorest" school to "poorest" school every year, sprinkling their brilliance as they go? Within 10 years, they will have made things right at 10 different schools.
Duncan paid lip-service to what the majority of people always say they want, saying "the solutions [to moving the teachers] have to be local." But it won't matter if the U.S. education secretary or the Hamilton County superintendent does the teacher moving. It's not the right solution.
Besides achieving the nirvana of education equality, what else could happen with Obama's plan? Here's just three scenarios:
n The best teachers would quit or go teach in private schools. If after you've come up through the ranks, perhaps taught at the "poorest" schools, then moved to another school nearer your home, reached a point in your career where your supervisors consider you highly skilled, why should you automatically be expected to change?
n Many teachers would refrain from appearing highly skilled. What better way to stay where you're comfortable than to be just good enough to pass muster but not good enough to be selected to move to a poor school?
n Students would stop choosing education as a career if they believe their best effort would take them to a point where they see their work paying off, only to be moved like a chess piece to a different square.
Teachers deserve better. Students deserve better. Schools deserve better. Let's don't look for education equality for all. Let's reach for education superiority for all.