Good Teachers Still Deserve Six Figure Salaries

Back in 1998 when I was embarking on my 10th year as a teacher, I had an op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times about paying good teachers six figure salaries.

In the 16 years since then, little has changed.

The argument for more money is based on respect, not greed. In society, how much a person earns is directly related to how that person is perceived.   Teachers have little leverage in their profession and that is due to their pay. Higher teacher salaries would translate into increased clout.

As President Obama referenced in his 2011 State of the Union address, in South Korea teachers are known as “nation builders.”   A significant reason they have this perception is that their salaries are equivalent to other professions in that country; not so in America.

Here a teacher’s salary is not only less than comparative careers, but is ranked third out of four pay divisions at a school: administrator, counselor, teacher, clerk in high to low order.

In Glendale Unified School District, the fourth largest district in Los Angeles County,, the starting salary of a teacher is $46,868, of a counselor is $49,391, and an administrator is $63,622, while the highest salary for each category is $90,802, $106,862, and $142,337, respectively.

The salary of a first-year administrator is equivalent to that of a 12-year veteran classroom teacher.   Twelve years is about one-third of a person’s working life. No wonder many administrators exit teaching after a short stint in the classroom.

Over the course of their careers, a teacher can’t quite double her salary, a counselor can double her salary plus $8,000, and an administrator can more than double her salary plus $15,000.

At the bottom of the pay scale, the salary of two administrators doesn’t quite equal the salary of three teachers.   However, at the top of the pay scale, two administrators’ salaries surpass that of three teachers.   In other words, with more experience, the separation between administrators and teachers lengthens, implying that the value of an experienced administrator is worth more than the value of an experienced teacher.

It is interesting to note that the turnover rate among administrators is higher than that of teachers even though they are paid more.

And, don’t forget, counselors and administrators have secretaries to assist them. Not teachers.

The main argument opposed to higher pay for teachers is that there is no money for it.

Yet, there is money for so many other things whose impact on student learning is questionable including extensive diagnostic testing. One cannot minimize the impact that a qualified teacher has on a young person’s life.

And the competency of that instructor rests on a wing and a prayer.

Without financial incentives, principals can’t motivate their teachers to work harder because they can’t offer a bonus or a promotion.   Principals can’t threaten teachers if they don’t perform at a certain level of competence since teacher tenure locks in instructors for life.

Paying teachers solely based on experience and education breeds a lack of quality control.   With no reward for more effective work, the only variable separating a good teacher from a poor one is that teacher’s personal work ethic, a trait not taught in credential courses or staff development, meaning that too much of quality teaching hinges on pure luck.

I am not proposing that the salaries of my colleagues in the counseling and administration departments decrease.   However, as long as teachers rank third out of four pay classifications, the power they wield will remain minimal, and the prestige of the teaching profession will continue to languish.

No matter how often people articulate the importance of teachers, the proof is in the pay scale.

Nation builders?   Not in America.

Without parent involvement, NYC Mayor de Blasio’s $150 community school plan is bound to fail

Lost in the middle of the midterm election coverage this week was a major press conference on Monday by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing a $150 million infusion into the Big Apple’s 94 worst performing schools, creating community schools.

What is a community school?   Officially named “The School Renewal Program,”

the Mayor calls it his “whole child, whole school, whole community” concept. By “whole child” he means that schools will not just meet students’ academic needs but “all of their needs.”

In addition to providing children with books, desks, and supplies, they will also be given free food, including a pantry, free medical care for both physical and mental needs, weekly check-ups by dentists including cleanings, and free eyeglasses. One school already has a washer and dryer for families to use.

Frankly, it is surprising the bill for this “whole” thing is only $150 million.

This is a significant proposal.   Not in terms of money, but in terms of influence.

If the nation’s largest public school system is headed in this direction, how many more districts will follow suit?

The only thing that these schools will not be doing is clothe and house the students.   Hey, why not just build dormitories on school campuses?   Having students live directly on school property would cut down the tardies. Sure, the living quarters may take away playground space, but kids these days have little time to be kids; they need to be inside, on computers, learning the Common Core standards.

A cradle to career approach is a disturbing trend where the government takes care of children from the time that they are born through their entire K-16 schooling and beyond. Schools will evolve into social service hubs, their original role as learning centers receding.

The view that schools should do more than just teach kids is nothing new. As an extension to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), President Obama signed the Community Eligibility Provision in 2010 allowing school districts to provide free or reduced-fee lunches to all students.   This program feeds 31 million school children each day costing $11.6 billion.   The cost has almost doubled since 2000 when it was at $6.1 billion.

This year Chicago Public Schools, the third largest in the nation, is expected to serve 72 million breakfast and lunch meals.

Statewide, 58% of school children participate in NSLP, 66.2% in Los Angeles County.

Public schools rarely seem to have sufficient funds as it is.   If monies that should go into higher teacher salaries, improved school facilities, and up to date computer technology get diverted into paying doctors, dentists, washers, and dryers, the future of America’s public schools may be bleaker than it already is.

Politicians excel at concocting education initiatives for failing schools without addressing the root of the problem:   at-home parenting.

Mayor de Blasio plans on holding the principals and teachers accountable, but no where in his speech did he speak of the accountability of the parents.   You know, parents who are supposed to rear their children, feed and house them, and, yes, push them to do well in school.

Parent involvement is not just attending PTA meetings; it is talking to their children, checking their homework, partnering with the teacher.

Without parent involvement, no amount of money or ideas to fix struggling schools will ever work.

The old saying about give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime needs to apply here.