In the same blog post we have:
But I also recognize that this is no panacea. At a minimum, making teachers easier to fire needs to be paired with extensive reforms: a move towards defined contribution rather than defined benefit plans (which make a mid-career job loss catastrophic); elimination of seniority and useless credentials as the primary criteria for setting pay; broadening the recruiting base by eliminating a requirement for ed degrees; and a shift towards paying teachers more, especially in math and science. I also think it's absolutely crucial to set up some sort of Federal bonus to recruit high-performing teachers to the lowest-performing districts--a bonus sizeable enough to attract top teachers, and available only on one-year contracts.
Let me start by saying that I think there are some jobs that are too important to let any consideration intrude other than the best way to get the job done. Nuclear power plants, firefighters, poison control--I don't want to let other social goals, no matter how laudable, hamper their mission.
Teaching is one of those jobs. I just can't prioritize making teachers' work environments fair, interesting, or pleasant for them--not if there's any potential conflict with the goal of providing the best possible education for kids. Particularly disadvantaged kids, since I basically assume that educated and competent parents are going to ensure that their offspring are educated and competent. But where there are needy kids, my entire focus is on them. I want to make teachers' lives pleasant only insofar as this advances the goal of helping kids who need a lot of help.
Contra E. D. Kain, however, I don't think that all organizations should strive to minimize turnover. Why do fast food restaurants have turnover rates in excess of 100%, when they could lower them substantially by paying higher wages? Answer: because in a dirty, stultifying job like fast food service, it costs a lot in wages to reduce turnover a little, and people won't pay enough for a hamburger to justify those wages.
Okay, this seems like a slippery analogy but let us go with it. Ms. McArdle would like to make teaching into a high turnover profession. Okay, I can deal with that. She also thinks that it is so high priority that considerations like humane treatment are secondary to child outcomes. Curiously, I can deal with that too.
But what are the low job security professions with a high level of responsibility, high educational requirements and no limits on costs? Medical doctors come to mind but it's unclear to me that they represent the wage level that we should be shooting for.
I think a much more plausible story is that we have cut education to the bone. It's a large part of many state budgets (see California as a key example). The lack of resources has been partially helped by using job security and a sense of vocation in order to keep employee costs low. So what precise program cuts are we considering to raise wages or to pay "some sort of Federal bonus"? Or are we talking actual tax increases?
After all, according to Wikipedia, we spend $11,000 per student and have 76.6 million students in the United States. Is this really a place where we want to increase costs from?
Or, is the alterative to make education low cost and low skill? It has had this model in the past in the US (with the one room school house model) but that seems to contradict the importance of teaching. A lot of things are important and should not be trivialized. But is this really the best way forward?