Archive for Monday, December 24, 2007

It’s the money

Finding the money to raise teacher salaries is an important component to solving the state’s teacher shortage.

December 24, 2007


The headline on a recent Associated Press story about the shortage of teachers in Kansas probably made some school officials laugh.

"Lawmakers to school officials: Consider paying teachers more," it said.

To which school officials might respond with a sarcastic "duh."

The real question is where districts will get the money to pay teachers more. From that standpoint, it is welcome news that at least a few state legislators are getting the message that the state is facing a crisis when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified teachers.

The above-quoted headline was on a story about a meeting in Salina at which lawmakers were saying that districts should consider paying teachers in high-demand subject areas - specifically math, science and special education - a higher wage. Teacher associations usually have insisted on salaries being based on seniority and education level, without preference for certain subjects. Rethinking that policy may be a step in the right direction, but other actions also are needed.

At the end of November, school administrators and state education officials met for a "Teacher Recruitment and Retention Summit" in Topeka. At the summit, they shared their concern that despite more aggressive, creative recruitment campaigns, Kansas school districts still are having trouble filling the vacancies.

The superintendent of the Wichita school district noted that in the past, he usually has had about 200 teaching vacancies to fill each year. Now, he said, it's more like 450. As a result, schools in Wichita and Topeka have had to take aggressive steps, including going international in their search for teachers. This year, Wichita hired 30 teachers from the Philippines and Topeka hired 18.

The problem actually is a combination of several problems. Long-term teachers can retire with benefits at a relatively young age, and a large number of Kansas teachers now are reaching that age. Rural districts in Kansas have trouble recruiting because their locations are viewed as too remote. But for Mike Lane, president of Emporia State University, the bottom line is simple to identify. "They're leaving for the money, folks," he told the statewide summit, "That's the single biggest reason."

There seems to be little doubt that higher salaries would help ease teacher shortages. Reportedly, both House Speaker Melvin Neufeld and Senate President Steve Morris are ready for the Kansas Legislature to tackle the issue of teacher shortages. Kansas education officials, and really all Kansans, should be keeping their fingers crossed that legislators are willing to take their own advice and consider finding the money to let school districts pay teachers more.


Richard Heckler 10 years, 5 months ago

JOCO passed a sales tax to benefit public schools. Excellent public schools are good for economic growth. How many experienced teachers have been lost to JOCO?

USD 497 had a decent reputation the question is how much longer can it sustain such?

These people do not like public schools and I've come to believe some are on our state payroll as legislators: Beware: TABOR Is Coming | Dollars & Sense Beware: TABOR Is Coming. After devastating government services in Colorado, the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" threatens to spread. BY MICHAEL REBNE ...

So called Kansas Club for Growth does not like or support public schools then again neither does the state chamber of commerce. I'm not sure our local chamber of comerce truly supports public schools? Such backward thinking!

texburgh 10 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, Merrill, for pointing out the agenda of Club for Growth - add to them Americans for Prosperity. These two groups seek to starve our state of the revenue needed to provide public safety, a solid infrastructure, care for our most vulnerable citizens, and public education pre-k through graduate school.

We need legislators who will look at education as economic development. After all if low taxes and business tax breaks were all it took to get quality companies to a state the "silicon valley" and "silicon forest" would be in Louisiana or Alabama, not California and Washington!

It is high time the Kansas legislature took a comprehensive look at our tax system and recrafted it so that it is fair to both citizens and business and provides a stable and sufficient revenue base to provide the services we so desperately need and value.

texburgh 10 years, 5 months ago

Marion is typical of the clueless yokels who rant about our schools.

Our schools are doing a better job than ever - educating more children to higher levels. Children once "left behind" because there were good manufacturing jobs are now moved to higher levels. Children once "left behind" because of their race or disability or native language are now moved to higher levels.

Why should we be surprised that there are some kids not fully prepared for a four year university? Children who come from difficult or deprived backgrounds will need extra help. We should provide it instead of whining. We can make sure everyone who goes to college is fully prepared for the university - just go back to a system that tells under-privileged, disabled, or language minority children that they can't or won't graduate from high school.

Marion ought to go visit a school sometime. It's a different world from when he was in school. The public schools my four children attend do a tremendous job and are bringing my children to much higher academic levels than I was offered in my own college prep high school.

Or maybe Marion could run for the Kansas legislature - he'd probably win because that is where Kansans send most of the clueless, vacant idiots living in the past.

Patrick Wilbur 10 years, 5 months ago

"Excellent public schools are good for economic growth."

That would be true if we didn't drive businesses away with a hgh tax burden. Most of the "economic growth" in Kansas has been in the public sector. We are educating our children so they can find good jobs in other states.

Suggestion - if you value public education then focus on your Federal officials. The Feds have no business in education policy (check the US Constitution). Yet states and localilties must deal with obscene mandates such as NCLB (and it wouldn't matter if it were funded - still terrible policy).

Liberty 10 years, 5 months ago

One big reason that there is a shortage of teachers is because of over regulation by the State. The regulations and requirements on teachers that public schools would consider hiring has reduced the available pool of people who could actually do the job, simply because they don't match up with all the regulations placed on the position. So a large number of people are never even considered for the position. The State has regulated themselves into this shortage of teachers. It's not just about money only, but all jobs should pay a fair livable wage.

Confrontation 10 years, 5 months ago

Legitimate places that employ these workers will have pre-employment drug screenings. The rest should be held accountable.

Liberty 10 years, 5 months ago

Many of the jobs that are available out there have an excessively high qualification level that is designed to match foreign trained students qualifications rather than those people locally available. The example of teacher hiring in Wichita and Topeka is good example of this manipulation. "This year, Wichita hired 30 teachers from the Philippines and Topeka hired 18." The companies in the USA need to do more "on the job training" to bring up our local talent and stress excessive qualification less, and not rely on College training only to fill a position that does not really need this level of training. Most companies use the qualifications to limit the number of applicants for a position rather than actually needing that high of a level of training. Some companies also promote using high qualifications to show that the company tried to hire locally, but just couldn't find the local talent. This is done to allow H1-B visas for cheap foreign labor to save the company money and utilize a global slave labor force.

The economy is weak and sick because companies have exported US jobs to countries with much lower wages that don't have many jobs, but the people have a College education proviced by their government. Our government has allowed corporations to do this to put profit ahead of a good economy. So pouring more money into the teachers pockets is not going to fix this nations problems.

texburgh 10 years, 5 months ago

Sadly, Pywacket and Marion continue to promote their anti-everything agenda.

First, Marion says check with for "truth." Truth that is if you are Karl Rove or Grover Norquist. This is not the truth. It is the Michael Moore of the right. The only goal of Mackinac and others like our own Flint Hills Network is to "reduce government to a size that can be drowned in the bathtub." (Grover Norquist).

Then we are asked to look at international comparisons of student performance. Such comparisons are not legitimate because the US is the only country that subjects all young people to the tests. Take Germany for example, they sort their students on test scores beginning at about age 10. Those taking the "high school" level math and science tests are only those that have been sorted to the gymnasium (college prep) secondary schools. Compare apples to apples; we do fine.

Japanese schools - noted for their high achievement - are studying American schooling to find out how they can make their students thinkers; creative people that can "think outside the box."

Give me American public schools any day. Not just for my four kids but for everyone's.

Tom McCune 10 years, 5 months ago

Quoth Marion:

Fact is that we are producing a nation of functional illiterates; "loosing" for "losing", people who cannot write legibly, people who know nothing of history, inability to write complete coherent sentences, people who require icons on cash registers to record sales and make change.

toefungus 10 years, 5 months ago

Money is important, but not the entire reason key teaching positions in science and math are not being filled. No Child Left Behind is another big reason. You can only bring scores up so far, then you can't move them any farther. In fact, you end up teaching to the test and nothing more. More money will not be enough to bring in more teachers. Being a "federal employee" at a local school is a dead end job. You can't please the federal, state, and local requirements and be true to the subject matter. Your better off teaching in Asia where the sciences and mathematics are respected.

Kuku_Kansas 10 years, 5 months ago

Considering about 35% of the state's lawmakers actually graduated with a college degree, there should be no surprise Kansas doesn't value education more than it does.

But those who have cited NCLB as the primary factor for discouraging teachers from remaining in the field are also pretty dead-on. Teaching is a science, but mainly an art to those that enter the field. Since the federal government has hijacked how states/districts will educate (teaching to tests), many professional teachers are feeling the constraints from their administrators.

I say this as a teacher myself. My value as a teacher seems wasted. I am to produce proficient test takers, not thinkers.

I have opted to leave the classroom and instead begin a career in educational administration. Hopefully I'll have more value in an admin. position.

Either way, my services will not be provided to the State of Kansas. Poor retirement program, low salaries and a whacky board of education kinda makes up my mind for me.

OnlyTheOne 10 years, 5 months ago

This has been up since Monday but it just hit me. "The real question is where districts will get the money to pay teachers more." How 'bout the "suits" (administrators) don't take so much or have so many of 'em? Or how 'bout cutting back some of the unnecessary expenses? How many times has usd497 bought, improved and moved from buildings?

justthefacts 10 years, 5 months ago

As a nation we pay our sports figures, TV and Movie stars, Doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, school administrator, most car or real estate sales people, and a lot of other professionals a whole lot more then a teacher makes in a year, sometimes in a lifetime.

And yet, we turn our children over to teachers for most of their awake time, for 9 months out of the year, and expect them to teach our future all they need to know. If your children were that valuable to all of us, we'd want them to have the best teachers in the whole world, no matter the sacrifice.

In a capitalistic society where we show how much we value something by how much we pay for it, the fact there is even any debate over the worth of a GOOD (or great) teacher shows just how much we do (or do not) value our children and our nation's future.

Debate all you want about where the money should come from, how much a teacher should work (in hours) or the rules they should have to follow. But the bottom line (to me) is that if people truly valued their children's futures, they'd INSIST that the people who spend so much time with them be the best, whatever it takes!

otto 10 years, 5 months ago

They leave this job because they can retire at an early age with good income. Then you get another job with more income. Maybe the benefits are too good?

justthefacts 10 years, 5 months ago

I know there are a lot of people who say/think that most teachers are lazy or stupid or worse, and cannot get a better job so they choose to teach instead. I won't debate the accuracy of that view point. Rather, I go back to the simple fact of economics that says a society shows what it most values by paying more for it. And it pays most professionals more then it pays teachers.

If we want to hold teachers to a high (or higher) standard, we will pay accordingly. If we want children in their care to have better teachers, we will pay accordingly. If we want to demand that teachers do a better job, we will pay accordingly (and thus purchase the right to demand a better "product").

However, as long as the average teachers make a salary that is so low (even with 3 months "off" a year - which by the way is usually used (1) to hold down another part-time job to make ends meet AND (2) to get the additional classes needed to keep certification current) the general public will get what it pays for, in some cases (many or few) substandard professionals, and have no legit grounds for complaining.

And yes, those wonderful people who teach for a pittance, doing a job that goes largely unappreciated by the vast majority of society, are living saints. I was lucky enough to get several. And they changed my life forever.

If/when we want the majority of our teachers to be brilliant and excellent at what they are paid to do, we will pay salaries that match those goals. But as long as the current salaries and standards are the norm, we can expect the system to continue to produce the results it is producing. You get what you pay for!

Personally, if I had a child of school age (I am now too old) I would probably choose home-schooling. At least then I would know who to blame if the lessons weren't getting properly taught!

Jock Navels 10 years, 4 months ago

If you want your kid's teacher randomly drug tested, your teacher wants your kid randomly drug tested. A drug free workplace should be drug free. If your kid tests positive, he/she stays home till he/she tests negative. And you stay home and parent the kid. Whoa, then you should be drug tested, too. Ever look at your hands, I mean, really look at them?

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