Previously I had posted about how education may be suffering from the loss of a generation of teachers. With few people retiring and no positions to hire, education could be losing a myriad of teachers to other professions. After all, if teaching isn’t hiring, someone else may be.
Well, I’ve been accused of hyperbole with my coming thoughts, but I firmly believe that if the country does not turnabout and begin to value teachers more, we’re going to doom the public education system.
Graduates see what is happening in Wisconsin, what has happened in Rhode Island, and the continued attacks on teachers and their benefits. Why would anyone want to enter the teaching profession?
They don’t. At least the best are not. Nicholas Kristof noted a McKinsey & Company study revealing that 47% of America’s K-12 teachers come from the bottom 1/3 of their college classes. The top 1/3 are becoming doctors, bankers, and entering other lucrative professions.
And this should surprise no one. Graduates are seeing that, more and more, the job of a teacher is getting more difficult, the profession is being disrespected, and salaries and benefits are under attack. The best and brightest are going elsewhere.
And where does this leave the profession? Here is one example from Kristof’s article:
In 1970, in New York City, a newly minted teacher at a public school earned about $2,000 less in salary than a starting lawyer at a prominent law firm. These days the lawyer takes home, including bonus, $115,000 more than the teacher, the McKinsey study found.
He further noted:
Starting teacher pay, which now averages $39,000, would have to rise to $65,000 to fill most new teaching positions in high-needs schools with graduates from the top third of their classes, the McKinsey study found.
I recently read (and I forget where but will post the link when I find it it) that in Washington State had teacher salaries simply matched the inflation rate for the last 30 years, each teacher would be making on average $12,000 more than they currently do.
If the country is serious about attracting the nation’s best, then salaries and benefits have to part of the whole package. Other countries get it:
Consider three other countries renowned for their educational performance: Singapore, South Korea and Finland. In each country, teachers are drawn from the top third of their cohort, are hugely respected and are paid well (although that’s less true in Finland). In South Korea and Singapore, teachers on average earn more than lawyers and engineers, the McKinsey study found.
If we want to lead the world, we better start valuing education more than the American Idol finalists, Jersey Shore, and pro sports. And, we better start recognizing the debilitating effects of poverty on our students.
Teachers get paid a lot of lip service, but only when this country puts its money where its mouth is will we see a world class system develop.