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Topic: Pay teachers - they are worth it!
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Pay teachers - they are worth it!
Posted: Aug 19, 1999 2:27 PM
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Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale, IL; Thursday, August 19, 1999, p. 2B


Blame Game - Let's Pay Teachers What They're Worth

By Myriam Marquez
Orlando (FL) Sentinel

Public-school teachers get no respect and little pay for the challenges
they face.

It's not the teachers' fault, though, that little Johnny's parents never
read to him before he entered kindergarten or that sleepy middle-schooler
Amy is allowed to stay up until the wee hours watching television.

It's not the teachers' fault that some of their students come from
dysfunctional families consumed by alcohol or drug addiction.

It's not the teachers' fault when high school kids sleep in class because
they have to work nights to help their families make ends meet.

But we blame the teachers anyway. We blame them because turning around
crippled schools is hard work that requires the participation of parents,
business people and the community in general. It's work that requires
patience and lots of time -- both in short supply in our always-on-the-go

We say we want to help, but, really, all we want to do is gripe. If we
wanted to help, we would start by paying teachers what they are worth. We
prefer, instead, to pay for more cops and jail guards when the kids don't
turn out quite right.

Then we blame the teachers.

We expect teaching to be a calling that requires personal sacrifice -- not
a profession, like any other, that's well-rewarded.

Don't tell me there's no proof that more pay leads to better teachers.
Don't point to Catholic schools, which pay teachers substantially less than
the public-school system and yet produce students who are top achievers.

True on both counts, but private and Catholic schools get to choose their
students. Public schools must accept every little broken child.

Another argument against paying teachers more is that they have summers
off. Teachers I know, though, also work 10- to 12-hour days, grading
papers, preparing class assignments, looking for innovative materials to
inspire their studetns. Many spend a chunk of summer in training to polish
their teaching skills, too.

They do all of that, and yet the average salary for a beginning teacher is
$25,735 nationwide, and the pay tops out, on average, at $39,000.

Teaching is not a 9-to-5 job. It's more like an adventure that should
require battle pay -- particularly for those who teach in inner-city or
rural schools.

Those schools , though, are the ones that are filled disproportionately,
with young, inexperienced teachers. The most experienced teachers are
rewarded by being sent to wealthier suburban schools in which parents are
involved and are go-getter fundraisers.

Absolutely -- not all teachers will produce better students if paid more.
But it's also a given that poor pay breeds mediocrity in a competitive

Paying teachers more is one necessary step among many that public schools
must take if we're truly serious about helping kids succeed.

Lengthening the school day by one hour, increasing the school year by 30
days, making discipline rules clear and sticking to them and reducing class
size so that children get the individual attention they need to catch up
are all key components that lead to success.

There are about 2.7 million teachers nationwide. In the next 10 years the
United States will need 2 million more teachers to keep up with the growth
in the student body and to make up for the retirement of baby-boomer

Do the math. It's not that complicated. We either offer better pay and
better work conditions or we give in to the blame game, let the kids slip
further behind their peers in industrialized nations and keep building more
prisons for our homegrown failures.

Myriam Marquez is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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