Do business leaders have the guts for education reform?

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to increase from three to five years the time it takes for new teachers to earn tenure seems reasonable. I’m glad Tennessee’s business community has stepped up to support the idea. However, a more important question is will the business community provide the same leadership on teacher compensation issues?

Talking about teacher pay isn’t going to be popular, given the budget cutting frenzy that grips Nashville — and other state capitals — these days. But it is a necessary discussion. The single, most important factor in providing a quality education is having a great teacher in every classroom. And to attract — and keep — the best teachers, we need to pay them like we mean it.

Teacher compensation should be expensive. If it means raising taxes, so be it.

Supporing teacher tenure reform is an easy stand for Tennessee’s Chambers of Commerce. The real guts will come when tackling teacher compensation reform.

I’ll leave you with this:

“Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes; we need gigantic changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That’s my position. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.”   — Sam Seaborn,  fictional White House speechwriter in the TV series “The West Wing.”

Video: Sam Seaborn ‘Education is the silver bullet’