In my miniscule view of the universe and politics I'm basically a conservative independent. I make my opinions based on what I have learned, read, and seen in this world we live in. I've had the privilege of being educated over the years in parochial schools for 10 years, a private university for several more and a couple of public institutions. I taught for a number of years in the same grouping as well as a one-roomed schoolhouse with grades K-12 all together (what a wonderful memory).
Over the years I have watched my children, all of them, either succeed or fail depending on their motivation (sadly, most of those young people came to me too late to try to instill a love of learning) mostly in the public school system here in the US.
As a teacher, I have literally worked for nothing and not much. My idealistic thoughts that I can make a difference remain even today. I see my local school system rake in $13,000 or more PER STUDENT from taxes and the federal government. In Oregon, the average starting salary for a teacher, $33k + is nearly 6 times more than I started and the average teacher salary is around $51k. No one is getting rich from teaching. But with around 3200 students in the district, WHAT is that money (41,600,000 + dollars a year) going to?
|Public School Spending-a black hole?|
Granted a lot of that funding goes to salaries and building maintenance and upkeep. Giving students a safe place to learn and to have qualified staff to teach them is of utmost importance. Like most school systems the administration is over heavy but the lawns around the school are green and of course, the sports facilities are the best that can be bought.
When I was applying for my first teaching job, one of the first questions asked was, "What sport can you coach?" Was I to be honest and say, "None? But I can coach drama, and speech, and debating." Needless to say, I pounded a lot of pavement before I became the only male teacher on a faculty who didn't coach a sport. AND I became very unpopular among other teachers when I refused to take into consideration "the big game" when I handed out students' grades--education was more important to me.
And that last six words are the crux of this epistle--education was more important to me.
It was only towards the end of my public school career that I joined the teachers' union. There was a rather spirited debate going on regarding salaries and benefits for the teachers. I joined because I supported the "good teachers" in the district, the ones who cared for the kids and who thought that their education was their highest priority.
I said above that no one is getting rich from teaching. Good teachers deserve to receive compensation for the knowledge they share with their students and the skill they use to help those kids learn what is necessary. Frankly, in my mind, a good teacher should be treated like a good doctor--they are THAT important to our young people--and should be paid accordingly.
Unfortunately, good teachers (note I keep repeating that) are treated no differently than bad teachers. Most school systems can't recognize the good teachers. Most school systems can't fire a bad teacher. Historically, very, very few teachers have been fired by any public system and that's because the unions have iron-clad contracts protecting the teachers--all of them. After two years, a public school teacher receives tenure and it takes an act of God to fire them (or lewd/malicious behavior). The unions are there to protect the teachers...period. They recognize what a teacher's task is but in no uncertain terms. Indeed, when a top NEA lawyer (Bob Chanin) retired in 2009, his parting address included the following :
“Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power."
I have no union-busting bones in my body but I have a love for education and learning and most importantly, children. It seems from the above that the National Education Association doesn't quite have the same loves in mind. My daughter has been in a Christian school for most of her young life. Her teachers all work for a fraction of what their counterparts in the public schools receive. Her education has been of the highest quality and her standardized scores for the most part have been considerably higher than her public school peers--and my daughter isn't brilliant by any means, she's a bright, average student who has had good teachers.
Tuitions in the best private schools in this region are considerably lower than what our county gets per kid, for the most part. The difference is in the people who teach these youngsters--they are there for the children and every day set out to teach them to the best of their ability. Their idealism and zeal remain because they don't have to spend 15 minutes of every 45 dealing with bureaucracy and they are doing what they love, teaching. The majority of the teachers give their students their home/cell phone numbers in case there is a problem. The facilities are safe and most do have sport programs as well as other extra-curricular activities.
County school systems lose huge numbers of students to home-schooling because parents have lost faith in the system (although they still receive dollars for each of those home-schooled kids). How many more students would be lost if some sort of voucher system was in place so that more parents could send their children to private schools of any sort--how many students have already been lost to Charter Schools which are basically independent from the county system and exist because parents and good teachers care? How many of the good teachers in the public schools would go to the alternatives just because the idealism of putting students first would attract them?
Good teachers teach. They are one of the most important links in our young peoples' lives to the world...to the future. Let's reward those good teachers somehow--that apple on the desk is great but it's only good for one meal!
Getting off of soapbox now!