What’s Money Got to Do With It?
What’s money got to do with it? Turns out not too much. The average teacher’s salary in Maryland is in the mid-60’s. They work about 190 days out of the 365. That means they are off almost as many days (175) as they work. The benefits are good and the likelihood of getting fired is very low.
In spite of these happy numbers, 44% of new teachers leave within the first five years. And that is 44% of all teachers, not just teachers who work with students with challenges.
The number of teachers in public schools is exploding. It is growing much faster than the number of students. The pressure for reduced class sizes, more special ed services, STEM teachers and English-as-a-second language have all pushed the numbers higher. The question of how long the cost can be sustained by the taxpayers has not even been asked let alone resolved.
Teachers are getting younger and much less experienced. In the 2007-08, the average age of a teacher was 55. In just ten years that number has dropped to a number where most teachers are in their late 30's. In 1987-88 school year, the most common public school teacher had 15 years of experience. Today that number is three years or less.
Teachers have become more racially diverse, but they are still primarily white women.
So, what are the issues if it is not money? First of all, it is the testing and the blame teachers get when the test scores go south. The presumption is if your students get bad scores on the test it is because they have not been taught well. We do not give the students or their families any responsibility for attending school, doing the necessary studying nor do we acknowledge that children have differing academic abilities that no amount of teaching is going to totally change.
In order to do the testing, school systems have instituted the pacing guides. These guides ensure that the students have been “exposed” to the content that is being tested. They also require the teachers to be on the precise section of the curriculum on each precise day. There is no time to re-teach or teach differently. The joy of connecting with kids and matching the pace of the program to the pace of the child’s learning no longer exists.
Then there is administrative support and the demand to decrease the number of out-of-school suspensions. Teaching is not supposed to be a contact sport. It is true that we have been suspending kids for the dumbest of reasons. So if you are truant (illegally absent from school) as a consequence we suspend you and make you legally absent from school. Seriously dumb! However, if you commit an act of aggression against a classmate and/or a staff person, that student needs to be suspended. Recently a student smacked a teacher in a local school system. The student was not suspended, he was counseled and the union said the teacher forgave the student and accepted his apology. I would not be surprised if that teacher did not become one of those 44% of teachers who do not return next year. Administrators are also worried about their numbers. The test scores of the students in the building and the number of suspensions each semester. They are not protecting teachers.
In the end, what’s money got to do with it? Not too much if you don’t enjoy the job and need to play duck and cover from your students.