I just finished reading the latest issue of The Kappan—by Phi Delta Kappa, an elite education fraternity that i have belonged to for over 30 years. It was about teaching and teachers. In it, college professors and administrators (there is a noticeable dearth of classroom teachers writing as they are too busy teaching) are writing about what we need to do to attract and retain better teachers—“the brightest and the best”, so to speak.
It is my observation that there is an “elephant in the room” that nobody talks or writes about when they say we want the “brightest and best” as teachers. That elephant is MONEY. We want outstanding teachers, yet we do not want to pay for them. Compare teacher’s salaries with any other profession and you will quickly see the point. On top of that we put them on salary schedules that move one year at a time regardless of competency and “being the best.” When teachers seek to leave their school districts to go to another district they are forced to take a cut in pay if they have taught for over 5 or 6 years, as most districts only allow them to transfer 5 or 6 years of their experience on the salary schedule even if they have taught 25 years. In addition, many states, including Kansas, are trying to change their guaranteed retirement in 401k plans that are risky—-saying they can’t afford to pay them retirement even though their low salaries all their working life exclude saving much.
We need to decide what we want—“Cheap” or “the brightest and the best”. If our teachrs are the “brightest and the best” teachers they will soon see the light and engage their talents where they can support their families. Right now we are getting MUCH MORE THAN WE ARE PAYING FOR, but this will not happen forever.
As a former teacher I have been in their position. A guaranteed pension from California was what kept me working until retirement in a profession that I loved, but a profession in which I received little respect or monetary reward.. If I hadn’t had a good retirement to look forward to I would not have continued to work two jobs for 31 years in order to support my family.
PEOPLE—PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND TAKE A LOOK AT THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM!!