Give All the Teachers a Big Raise
- Posted: Dec 30, 2006 at 1:58 PM
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I went to hear John Edwards speak yesterday. One of the things he talked a little about was education. He related a story of inviting a group of education experts to a meeting and asking them this question – “If you could make one change, any change at all but only one, that would make education in America better what would it be?” The answer he received was “pay every teacher $80,000 a year.”
The reason this change was recommended was not to reward current teachers but to make teaching attractive enough to recruit more of the best and brightest people to enter the field. Now I know some teachers who find this a little insulting because they like to think of themselves as being among the best and the brightest. Frankly I happen to think that my wife and son, both teaching in public schools, do fit into that category. Certainly there are many bright people who could do anything but have chosen to enter teaching as a calling.
At the same time I believe that there are a lot of people for whom teaching is just a job. It is a job they found easy to get, easy to hold on to and it has lots of vacation time. Just changing the pay scale way up is not going to make those people better teachers unless something else changes.
If teachers were making a very attractive salary there would have to be some other changes to make it work without waiting for the current generation of teachers to all retire. Tops among those changes are that principals would have to be able to fire teachers who were on cruise control. There is a difference between 20 years of experience and one year of experience 20 times. Good principals can tell the difference and if there were scores of top minds and hard working bodies waiting to fill teaching jobs they could get rid of teachers who are not cutting it.
Work rules would also have to have some additional flexibility. Ideally, to me, that would mean that teachers would have to spend some of their summer taking additional training. They would have to keep current with their main area of specialization and learn other secondary areas. They would have to have more and better training in teaching methodology as well as the use of technology as a teaching tool. In industry we expect people to be trained on the company dime and the company time. We should expect the same for highly paid teachers.
Is any of this going to happen? Probably not – people are cheap when it comes to education. But if Presidential candidates are going to talk about it who knows what may happen?
What do you think?