Teachers as Entrepreneurs: A Refreshing Race to the Top Idea?

Knowing that teacher quality is so essential to successful student learning, Colorado’s lawmakers and education officials should be doing more to enact policies that promote teacher autonomy, excellence, and accountability. The Maryland Public Policy Institute does just that with its new report calling for “Teachers as Entrepreneurs” (PDF).

The idea? Instead of placing all instructors under the terms of a centralized bargaining contract, allow for some individual teachers or teams of teachers to contract with a school district to perform instructional services. Either union or non-union, they could agree on setting terms regarding class size, basic working conditions, performance and differential pay, and retirement plans.

This approach would give individual teachers greater freedom to determine whether they want to support and subsidize political activities. It would require state law to take a neutral position on the issue of unionization and exclusive representation.

Now, in some important ways, Colorado law in this area is ahead of Maryland law. School districts are not obligated to bargain. It’s a local decision. But even the districts without exclusive representative union contracts tend to pay all teachers on the same outdated salary scale and pay the same state retirement benefits for all.

So the idea of encouraging more teacher entrepreneurship through alternative certification, independent contracts, and higher accountability and rewards is one our state could stand to benefit from, too. After all, it could make Colorado more attractive for promoting an innovative reform that meets one of the federal Race to the Top grant funding guidelines.