My wife, Merrilyn, is a teacher for Seattle Public Schools, teaching 3-5 grade children with autism. To state that I admire her greatly is a gross understatement. In her fourth year of teaching, she has already earned a reputation of excellence and compassion. It is wonderful to see her connect with her passion: at-risk children.
Yesterday was supposed to be a paid prep day. However, Washington State, in order to close a deficit gap, made an across-the-board 1.9% pay cut for all educators in 2011/12. The Seattle district chose to handle this via 1.5 days of furlough. The teachers will be less prepared for the start of the school year, unless they ignore the admonition to do absolutely no work on the furlough days.
Why is it that education always gets the axe whenever government budgets hit a shortfall? I could go on for pages about how backward this is. I don’t understand why we have a culture of teacher bashing in this country. During the Wisconsin fiasco in February I remember the talking heads decrying how selfish it was for teachers to be unwilling to “make sacrifices” and how easy they had it because of their short work days and summers off.
Last year my wife worked at least one day most weekends and until 6 or 7 PM most weekdays. She calculated that her hourly rate averaged out to about $8/hour. If that wasn’t enough, she had to pay for a lot of her curriculum and other resources out of her own pocket. I think teachers make enough sacrifices.
We were at Jazz Alley the other night and sat next to a music teacher from Canada. He suggested that we move to Canada as the teachers are better paid there. This appears to be true in other countries like Germany, Korea, Japan, Switzerland, among others. In fact, among developed nations, relative to GDP, US teacher pay ranks in the bottom third. The educational climate in the US makes it difficult to attract and retain talented teachers. As a result, there is a constant shortage of qualified math and science instructors. This quote from futureofchildren.org:
A teacher’s decision to enter or remain in teaching depends not only on his or her initial salary but also on the expected growth in that salary over time. A key question is what a potential teacher could expect to earn over his or her lifetime as a teacher compared with other occupations.
Public school teachers are generally maligned in this country as being greedy and incompetent. However, ask any teacher which factor impacts student learning more than any other, and they will say that it is the student’s home environment. Test a student on a day when there is utter chaos in the home and they will not test well. With a divorce rate of 50% or the need for both parents to hold multiple jobs to make ends meet, children don’t get the support they need to do well in school.
I could go on and on, but I will wrap it up by saying this: Our teachers deserve our support, not our blame.