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Archive for Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teachers’ value

September 14, 2008

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To the editor:

I appreciated the article about the shortage of general practitioners among medical school graduates. It is no surprise that salary is the major factor influencing the M.D.s' career path. Clearly this problem needs to be addressed for the physical health of our country.

However, there are shortages elsewhere as well. This year, Kansas schools opened with over 225 teaching jobs unfilled. There were no qualified applicants to hire. Salary is the major factor influencing people who decide against entering the teaching profession. General practitioners' starting salary averages $186,000. As a veteran teacher with a master's degree, 186,000 resembles my odometer more than my W-2. I do earn $186,000, it just takes me a little over four years to do it. A beginning teacher earns $186,000 for about seven years' work.

Granted, medical graduates have greater student loan debt than education graduates. But as a percentage of starting salary, those debt levels are fairly equal. The difference is that education graduates spend virtually every penny earned on simple living expenses, while the medical graduate has far more disposable income. Thus, while the general practitioner might settle for the Camaro over the Corvette, the education graduate settles for food over fuel and walks to school.

I don't begrudge doctors their high salaries. They worked hard to get where they are and work harder to stay there. They are essential to our society. Yet, without teachers there would be no doctors. Teachers make all other professions possible. How does our society reward that?

David Reber,
Lawrence

Comments

toe 5 years, 7 months ago

Kansas makes accreditation a real pain in the neck. You can hold a valid teaching certificate from almost every state in the union, but Kansas will not take it. You have to apply, get fingerprinted, do additional classroom work, and pay money for a license. It is a very effective tool in eliminating competition from out of state teachers.

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RiverCityConservative 5 years, 7 months ago

There are so many opportunities in this discussion for ways to improve the public's understanding of the teaching profession and the importance of the work that teachers do. The comparison between health care and education is an interesting place to start. My father and great-grandfather were medical doctors, and both sides of my family going back several generations there have been many teachers. My younger brother, Bill Scott, went into a health care profession, while I chose teaching (or teaching chose me). These professions "call" people to them, people who derive satisfaction from helping others. My father used to tell me he could not imagine ever "retiring" from the medical profession; I know many teachers who remain "semi-retired" but can't quite stop the activity even into their 70s and 80s. And another comparison is the way in which if a person is treated by an ideal doctor or ideal teacher, then he or she has less need of intervention as life goes on because of what is learned about taking care of oneself, preventing health problems, or learning effectively to handle new challenges in life. These are some of my initial thoughts on the topic, and I appreciate that the exchange is stimulating such interest!

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acoupstick 5 years, 7 months ago

"If and when teachers are ever held accountable for their performance and are forced to pay malpractice insurance when they fail students, then maybe our broken school system will stand a chance of survival"Teachers don't "fail" students. They assign them the grades they EARN.BowhunterI am a teacher and would support merit-based pay if we could figure out a fair way of determining merit. Scores on standardized tests are not necessarily the most accurate or fair measure of one's success as a teacher, although they are important. It can be argued that under the current system, the best teachers wind up teaching in schools and classes that need them the least. This needs to change. (BTW will you be in your treestand tomorrow?!!)For an interesting blog on this very subject check this:http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/schoolhouse/default.aspx

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teachersmom 5 years, 7 months ago

Let's work with the system we have. All you teachers out there that are just gliding to retirement, get off your lazy rear-ends and do the job you were hired to do. As in any profession, if you don't like your job, quit!And for all the fantastic teachers that my kids encountered in USD 497 thank you so much for what you did for my kids.I am so proud of my son, who just started his first job as a high school math teacher in a small town in SE Kansas. Yea, he's gonna be poor for a long time, but hopefully he will be happy. He will have an important job, helping to shape the minds of young people. He won't get rich, but he won't go to a job everyday that makes him miserable. Teaching is a great profession. Teachers teach the doctors, lawyers, farmers and all of us.Thanks to my daughters history teacher, Kim, at the Alternative High School who made her rewrite a paper because, in her words, she would never survive in college with writing like that. And now she is a senior at KU, survivng just fine.We need great doctors, for sure. But without great teachers, we would never have great doctors. All of us deserve great teachers. Great teachers need to be compensated with money and respect.

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BuffyloGal 5 years, 7 months ago

"While few overall - and the majority taking a while to get to 186K, there are still many PhD and EdD's that make a great salary - some over 186K." - not in Kansas! My department at KU pays a whopping 29K for a full-time instructor, many with a PhD. That includes teaching summers so we're obviously not in it for the money. Did I mention the evenings spent marking papers?Teachers have always been underappreciated and underpaid because deep down it is not a job, it is a vocation. Unions and lawmakers alike take advantage of this. When teachers strike, it isn't about food on the table, but how their "customers" are going to fall behind. No one likes to see a child fail, especially someone who has devoted their life to seeing children succeed. So if your rant is on the basis of some teacher you hated in high school, save your breath to cool your porridge. If you know the literary reference for that one, thank a teacher! Unless you have been at the chalkface, you have no idea what teaching is like.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

It's good to know that every problem in education can be solved by adopting bowhunter's anti-union ideology. All teachers need to do make more money and teach students better is to cease any attempts to look after their own interests in any organized way, and just accept whatever crumbs people like bow want to throw them, and work under whatever conditions he demands of them

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Jackie Jackasserson 5 years, 7 months ago

Doctors work force entry level of education is a doctorate degree and residency. Teachers work force entry level of education is a bachelor's degree. If teachers have the same debt load as a medical doctor after only 4 years of education (5 in some cases) then they did not spend thier money wisely to begin with. Many general practitioners see a large proportion of medicaid and medicare clients - especially in rural and impoverished areas. General practice reimbursement is not nearly as high as that for specialty services. It takes a lot of patients to get to 186K for a genearl practitioner. Teachers don't have to share their income with staff. General practitioners do. The reimbursement for seeing a patient isn't given to the doctor dollar for dollar - even in private practice. There is overhead to pay. Regardless of the pay differential, teachers are not responsible for the lives of their students. Parents do NOT sue teachers when their children don't make it into Harvard or go on to be wealthy and wise. Society generally accepts that a person is responsible for learning what they can and that general intelligence better predicts learning and subsequent acceptance into a university. (We won't go on about Harvard acceptance practices here - because it is just an example of a prestigious university here). However, the health and wellbeing of a general practitioners patients is something for which they are responsible. While sued less often than some practitioners, they still are, and for things like inadequate medical care. When teachers are paying malpractice insurance and are held accountable for inadequate educational care of their students, then the pay should be commensurate.Having taken some graduate level education courses and some undergraduate level pre-med courses, I would say the difficulty level of medical coursework is much higher than that of education - even at the undergraduate level. If teachers want to make more - they can get their doctorate as well and teach at the university. While few overall - and the majority taking a while to get to 186K, there are still many PhD and EdD's that make a great salary - some over 186K.

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Bowhunter99 5 years, 7 months ago

Unions are fully responsible for what the teachers are currently paid.The inability to get rid of worthless teachers and forcing us to pay the worthless ones as much as the good ones is what's keeping the salaries where they are...Why do good teacher leave? because they get tired of seeing worthless ones earning as much as they do. I have no problem paying a good teacher more money. I do have a problem with being forced to pay thousands of worthless ones that are just cruising into retirement the same amount when they're doing a disservice to all of us and our children.

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KSManimal 5 years, 7 months ago

And another thing....Yes, teachers know what the salary is before they take the job....precisely the point you're missing:People AREN'T choosing to take the job; hence the shortage.

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KSManimal 5 years, 7 months ago

Show me a doctor who heals all patients. Show me a doctor who is held accountable for lung cancer in patients who refuse medical advice to quit smoking.Yet, under NCLB, teachers are held accountable for test scores of students who don't even show up to school. Do your homework before posting, please.

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myopinion 5 years, 7 months ago

If and when teachers are ever held accountable for their performance and are forced to pay malpractice insurance when they fail students, then maybe our broken school system will stand a chance of survival. The big difference is that doctors actually treat the sick. The school system wants to teach the students who fly through without a hitch and don't need any help. The school system wants the rest of the students to go away because those just don't make the bricks on their buildings shine This attitude has turned young people away from any desire to be a teacher, and at the same time, taught them that all that really matters is money. Teachers salaries are paid for by tax payers, andthey know what the salary is when they take the job. Doctors are paid by theirpatients, and maybe that is why they have some reason to please and heal all they see. When the school system choses to educate only the easy, then it really doesn't matter what teacher in sitting in what chair, does it? This is a sad example for your own chosen profession.

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