Much of the current political debate centers around:
- The loss of jobs and opportunities for the middle class-
- Whether college should be free for all Americans-
- How the Millennials can be expected to pay back the $ 1.3 trillion of college debt they have accumulated when they are left to default to jobs in McDonald’s-
- The job flight to third world countries causing the plight of our rust belt industrial inner cities-
- The cycle of crime and destitution that imprisons undereducated minorities-
An important element of “the American Dream” is that a quality education is a fundamental right and an essential component of individual and communal success.
“For generations, education has been the springboard to opportunity in America.”
This is the widely held belief that has motivated the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to invest billions in an effort to improve public education.
TEACHERS? NOT SO VALUABLE
However, statistics prove that while we think education is valuable, we don’t think our teachers are worth very much.
Between 1996 and 2015 (19 years) public school teachers saw their pay decrease by $30 a week while the weekly pay for college graduates overall grew by more than $100.
In 1960, female teachers earned almost 15% more than their peers in other fields; by 2015, they were earning 14% less.
Teachers on the whole are paid 11% to 12 % less than comparable positions requiring a college degree.
According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the teaching profession has an average national starting salary of $30,377. NACE finds that other college graduates who enter fields requiring similar training and responsibilities start at higher salaries:
- Computer programmers start at an average of $43,635.
- Public accounting professionals at $44,668, and
- Registered nurses at $45,570.
In our society, compensation stands as a critical measure of value and importance. Noncompetitive pay is more than just an economic issue; it’s a statement of how much we respect teachers.
THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA
Schools are deeply concerned with the quality of their teachers, but quality is difficult to discern when hiring a new teacher. An effective teacher is one who can energize and motivate students in addition to imparting information – qualities that are hard to recognize at the hiring stage. Schools may desire a higher level of expertise, but they are reluctant to pay the salaries necessary to obtain it because of the difficulty of identifying quality teachers.
LET’S FACE FACTS
For most of U.S. history, the nation has been able to operate schools at low cost by exploiting the trapped labor force of educated women who had few other opportunities. Now schools must compete with other mentally and financially rewarding occupations as they recruit teachers. Surely it is immoral for us to shortchange our schools because we cannot face the fact that the days of exploitation are over, and we won’t pay enough to attract good teachers.