Sunday, May 19, 2013

June Clever, we have a job opening for you.

Some thoughts about education, my chosen profession.  Many conservatives have hopped on board the voucher train.  Vouchers are, according to their "experts", best for providing a quality education at a lower price that the public schools.

Much of the planned savings come from paying teachers much less than those in the public schools.  The theory is that good teachers will flock to these schools where there will be fewer discipline problems and the student body will be more engaged and--well, simply more likable.  "I will have a classroom of little Beaver Cleavers, and when the day is done, I will go home and eagerly wait for the next day."  Great plan.

But here's where it gets interesting.  New, young excited teachers can no longer work for much less than the public schools are paying, much less the crumbs that the new, privately run schools will.  Due to cuts in state funding done by the politicians that these people supported, these young people are saddled with huge student loans that have to be paid.  They don't have the option of working for less than the big, evil, union schools pay (unless they also want to give up the option of not living in a van down by the river). It's like owning an Italian sports car;  it may be appealing, but it's not anything that will realistically fit in the budget, so there's no point in spending a lot of time pondering it.

And hiring older, experienced teachers?  Those ladies who are married and are looking for a lower stress job than the public school experience?  That, like the world of the Cleavers, no longer exists.  My mom was a school nurse.  Money wasn't something that was talked about much in my home growing up, so I don't know what percentage of the family income her salary covered. But if I was just guessing I'd say Mom's salary was what paid for vacations and better cars in the driveway. But I know about my family (my wife also teaches), and I know that unless we wanted to radically change our lifestyle neither of us could take much of a pay cut.  We both love teaching, but we also love a nice summer vacation, eating out on occasion and dinner that doesn't include spam or canned spagetti.

So who will be teaching the kids?  People that can't find any other work.  Or the other option?  The teacher that are putting in 20-30 hours per week in a second job.  Why does this matter?  Because teachers that work long hours at other jobs don't give essay exams or writing assignments.  They do true/false and multiple choice tests because they can be graded quickly.  Also, you will be dealing with high turnover. If that teacher gets a shot at a job that actually pays them a decent wage, there will be no reluctance to bail out in early March if the chance comes.

I have plenty of other questions asking where corners can be cut to make these schools "efficient" enough to not only pay for themselves, but generate a profit.  Do you save on the building?  Technology?  Textbooks?  Security?  And how much can you cut without the quality of education paying the price?  Are 15 year old used books still good enough?  If a teacher wants to show kids a live  feed of an erupting volcano--is there a way to do that?  When a teacher bails, are there substitutes available?  But for now, I'll be happy to have just the first one answered.  And yes, I know that I won't ever get an answer, because there isn't one.

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