Bureaucracy at its finest

Albert Einstein once remarked that "Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work." He and Jonathan Keiler, a social studies teacher from Prince George's County Maryland, would get along swimmingly. This week, Jay Mathews narrates the story of Keiler's attempt to get his entitled pay upgrade. The only teacher at his high school with National Board certification and a law degree, Keiler had dutifully accumulated the necessary continuing education credits and submitted the paperwork to receive his step-pay-scale salary increase. After weeks of submitting and resubmitting, the PG County HR folks informed Keiler that, not only did he not qualify for a salary upgrade, he didn't even have enough credits for a standard certification. If Keiler didn't miraculously come up with 3 extra credits by the end of September, he would be decertified. "They are essentially firing me because they do not understand their own rules and procedures," remarked Keiler, "which of course are idiotic in the first instance, but at least they should know them." This story has a happy ending though; as soon as Mathews sent a draft of his Washington Post column to the county office, the situation was miraculously resolved in less than 24 hours. Whether or not one approves of pay raises associated with graduate degrees, one must conclude that Keiler's experience lays bare the absurdity of the entire pay scale system--and the bureaucracy that administers it.

"Bureaucratic Hoops for Gifted Teachers," by Jay Mathews, Washington Post, August 24, 2009