Friday, February 8, 2013

How to Fix Education

Teachers Pay and Hours

The chart above shows a comparison of the number of hours teachers work in the classroom compared to how much they make relative to the national GDP of their home country. In case you can't follow all the lines, the United States requires its teachers to spend the most time in the classroom, but is ranked 23rd in compensation. Korea pays its teachers the most, and the widest spread is Japan, with their teachers making the most money compared to the time they spend teaching.

What the United States seems to do more than any other nation is criticize our educators and demand more for less. We want longer hours, fewer benefits, reduced pensions, better test scores for each and every child, and all while we pay our teachers a crap salary. Education is a common punching bag for the federal government, but it also suffers from state and local cuts as well. In my area, town meetings are held annually to discuss the budget for the school. Every single time it's voted on, the first draft proposal is voted down. Why? Mostly, because community members who choose to send their children to private institutions vote no. They don't want to pay for someone else's education, but they are also removed from the consequences of these cuts. Teacher layoffs, failing to replace broken or outdated equipment and books; these are major issues if we want our children to have a 21st century, first-class education.

So, what do we do to fix this? First of all, let's make teaching attractive job opportunity. Right now, education doesn't even make it into the top 15 most lucrative professions. And look at the list of jobs that do. Most of them are jobs that people want and train for years in order to get (at least in some cases). Many of them require a large investment in post-secondary education, specialized programs, advanced degrees, and years of additional training and experience.

We demand that same level of academic and financial obligation from people who wish to teach. They must have a masters, they must have specialized training, pass regional tests designed to test their knowledge and understanding of education topics. They must regularly retake those tests to make sure their standards are still high. They are required in many cases to continue their education at an almost constant rate, something no other profession requires. Once a lawyer gets his law degree, he's not required to continue going to school. But a teacher is.

All of those things cost time and money, and are required of teachers. Yet we pay them less than most other countries, and we require more of them. We complain about how much they cost and how much we have to burden ourselves, when we're asking them to give up so much of their own time and money to stay in their positions.

The solution, as I said before I went off on that tangent, is to make education an attractive career path for our smartest citizens. Many of them are now being flooded into Wall St., law firms, or government. We need to get those people to consider education. We need to pay our teachers more so that we can attract smart, capable educators for the next generation. Wall Street does the exact same thing to attract smart investors. They have even said that they must keep their bonuses and high salaries to be able to remain competitive in the marketplace. Well, apply that logic to our education system. Isn't that a more worthwhile investment than Wall Street executives?

We can demand longer school days, longer school years, more oversight, more accountability, etc. all we want. But until we realize that our educators are overworked, overburdened, underfunded, underappreciated, and being used as a scapegoat for political deficit hawks and austerity-addicts, we don't have a chance of changing anything. We need to be better, and we can be.

1 comment:

samp said...

I agree with you, basically. To me there is nothing more important than educating our children for a better future. But I can't see how "throwing" more money at this will solve it. This country and most community have spent billions to try and improve education in this country. Where did all that money go and what did we get for it? Not much, frankly. I see several stumbling blocks to a better educated population, i.e. unions, tenure, salaries paid by the taxpayers (with and without children in schools). We have diminishing enrollment and increased salaries. Most money goes to the benefit of teachers and schools go without supplies etc. I for one believer teachers are so far underpaid it's ridiculous. They may appear to only work 180 or so days a year but they have to live and support families 365 days a year. Also, I have no use for the "socialist" Act 60. In my estimation is doesn't level the educational field it dumbs down more students than it helps. Property taxes to support schools in another issue. While a person is working etc, the value of their home is one thing. But when retired and on a fixed income with the property value continuing to go up it's no wonder more and more people are unable or unwilling to pass school budgets. Maybe there should be more fair system where the taxes are based on the fixed income rather than the value of ones property. After is that what fairness is all about? No system where salaries are paid by taxpayers will see the salaries go up as rapidly as they should. Teachers are so important to the success of this country's health yet woefully underpaid. Where are those great thinkers who can find a way other than "spreading" the wealth to pay our teaches what they deserve commensurate with the importance of their jobs. Too bad the can't hit a baseball over the left field fence or shoot a ball through a hoop like those way over paid athletes do. Which do you consider a more important profession for the success of our country? The professional athlete or the teachers trying to prepare our children for the future? Wow. I got a little carried away there. Sorry.