In the largest federal investment in teacher salaries, Sen. Kamala Harris believes she has the solution to the teacher shortage (“Kamala Harris Wants to Boost Average Teacher’s Pay by $13,500,” Time, Mar. 26). The estimated $315 billion over ten years would mean the average teacher salary would jump by $13,500.
Teachers deserve higher salaries in light of the increasing demands placed on them. But surveys of teachers who leave the classroom for other careers have shown time and again that money was not the deciding factor by a long shot. In fact, many take jobs paying less than they were making before.
What Harris and others do not understand is that the unrelenting criticism teachers receive has undermined their morale. When coupled with concerns about their physical safety, it has led them to question their decision to make teaching a career. For example, combat pay for teachers willing to teach in the inner cities has been a failure. A handful of teachers may volunteer, but they rarely last more than a year or two.
Until teachers are accorded the respect they deserve and given the proper conditions to teach, there will continue to be an outflow of teachers and the reluctance of the best and the brightest college graduates to make teaching a lifetime career.
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2 Replies to “Higher pay alone won’t solve teacher shortage”
Reinstate tracking. Add a second adult to the “lower” track classrooms in the low-SES schools. Reduce class size. Stop using student test scores to discharge teachers. Implement reforms that make it easier rather than harder for teachers to enforce reasonable behavior standards — i.e., allow teachers to impose traditional minor discipline w/o jumping through administrative hoops; stop reprimanding teachers who send insubordinate students to the “front office”; support teachers rather than students/parents in credibility conflicts. Provide “supervisor” teachers for all teachers so their performance is fairly/rationally evaluated, they receive useful feedback, they have someone to temporarily fill in for them for short periods, and their is a counterweight to the authority an irrational principal holds over the teacher’s life.
Labor Lawyer: These are excellent ways to support teachers and stem flight from the classroom. But student rights now trump everything else. You can trace that back to the late 1960s when SCOTUS gave students the right to legally challenge virtually all attempts by teachers to maintain order. Teachers who violated such rights were also held personally liable for punitive damages.