I have been very busy over the past week preparing some legislation for introduction.  The effort does give some credence to the quote by Otto von Bismarck, who said, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”  I first heard this metaphor during a city council meeting over 20 years ago, and it made sense then, and may be more appropriate today.

Last week Representative Julie VanOrden and I were wrapping up a piece of legislation to implement a recommendation from the Governor’s “Task Force for Improving Education.”  In August of 2013 the Task Force unanimously approved twenty recommendations, not quite unanimous, as one member dissented on one recommendation.

One of the task force recommendations deals with instructional compensation which reads:  “We recommend a phased implementation of a Career Ladder of teacher compensation. The model proposed combines competitive salaries with incentives, rewards and accountability.  Further, we believe it should be tied to a revised system of state licensure.” (emphasis added)  The task force included a wide range of citizens, stakeholders and legislators.  It was truly bipartisan.

Representative VanOrden and I were addressing the recommendation for rewards.  The proposed 2015 Budget has set aside nearly $16 million for leadership rewards.  The policy has not been defined.  The process of putting the pieces together, determining what leadership awards should involve and who should qualify begins.  Into the legislative grinder we ventured.  One of the first items we addressed was the term “reward.”  Do we give an award or bonus after the work is completed, or should the funding compensate for the work agreed to, much like a supplemental contract?

We determined that the compensation should be paid as a supplement to base compensation.  Our draft bill will refer to the compensation as a leadership premium, not reward.  We also concluded that the task force recommendation intended to separate base compensation from leadership premiums.  There was no resistance to a cap on individual premiums, at an estimated $475 per month.  However, when we suggested that no individual, accepting additional responsibilities, should be paid less than a premium of $150 per month, we encountered push back.

While the bill would leave the final decision to local school districts, we wanted to make sure the premium compensation was meaningful to those providing the additional value to the district.  The push back was like adding sand to in a grinder, a noisy “no minimum!”  The fear from some is the potential loss of task force unity over the use of a minimum.  People, who know me best, understand that I have this logical streak in me.  I cannot see how giving all instructional staff a raise meets this task force recommendation to reward those who are performing leadership tasks, mentoring, hard to fill positions or taking on responsibilities beyond their basic teaching contract.  The enhanced compensation of the career ladder and licensure questions should be resolved in the next legislative session, and is an important separate recommendation.

We will see how the legislation evolves and if we can get this first recommendation in place for the upcoming school year.    While Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had a great observation about legislation, the Battleship Bismarck lies on the bottom of the Atlantic.  I will work hard to keep the task force recommendations afloat and moving forward.  Premium compensation is not the end of the trail, but the beginning.

Now, do not get me wrong, I love sausage, especially Falls Brand.  I love it with eggs, on pizza and in omelets.  I love patty, link and summer sausage, but I must admit, I have never watched it being made.  I am sure making sausage is a much more sanitary and organized process than making legislation.