Archive for Thursday, June 16, 2011

Education exodus

The veteran Kansas teachers now leaving the field will be hard to replace.

June 16, 2011


For years, educational experts have been warning of the impending retirement of a generation of experienced public school teachers, but seeing some of those numbers on paper still is sobering.

A report released Tuesday by the Kansas Department of Education showed that more than 1,500 teachers retired in the 2010-11 school year. In the four previous years, retirements in the state had ranged between 1,000 and 1,100.

Kansas State Board of Education Chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita, blamed the increase on continued low pay coupled with increased pension costs and fears that the state will move to a 401(k)-style retirement plan. As a public school teacher himself, Dennis probably has a pretty good read on the situation.

Budget cuts also have had an effect. Statewide teaching positions were reduced by 350 slots this school year and 260 the year before. The previous three years, the reductions were 49, 21 and 7 respectively.

The number of teacher layoffs in the last two years amounts to more than belt-tightening. It’s a demoralizing comment on the importance lawmakers place on public education and classroom teachers.

It would be nice to think that school districts are trimming the least productive and effective members of their teaching and administrative staff to make a leaner and meaner organization. That probably isn’t the case. Many of the teachers who are retiring have many years of experience that will be lost. People who are retiring early or leaving teaching for some other reason probably are doing so because they feel underappreciated and overworked and believe they will be happier and more satisfied in another job.

It’s not much of a recommendation for a career that is one of society’s most important jobs. Even the state school board’s Dennis said, “If I was in college right now looking at what I want to do with the rest of my life, I am not sure I would choose teaching as a profession.”

Unfortunately, many young people considering their futures probably share that sentiment. Retirements and other pressures are pushing many highly qualified teachers out of our public schools. Unless society and government find better ways to support and reward good teachers, it’s hard to see who will replace them.


Timothy Eugene 7 years ago

No, they are replacing them with kids fresh from college. They won't hire the more experienced teachers because they have to pay them more on the salary scale. I know many experienced teachers who were laid off the past 2 years, just for the misfortune of being the newest in their district, thus had no tenure. They lose out on a new jobs to fresh college graduates. This is a trend that has been going on for the past 20 years....and a major contributing factor to lower and lower test scores.

Tracy Rogers 7 years ago

School HAVE to lay off non-tenured teachers first. They have no option in that matter.

Getaroom 7 years ago

The Republican party has been making an assault on education for years. Devaluing teachers year after year, underpaying them, and then there was the No Child Left Behind program of the GWB era. For years it has been known that in order to compete in a globalized economy American educated students needed to be moving up the scale, not down. And all the while education is having it's core dis-manteled, more and more jobs are shipped out of the country.

Where do those policies leave anyone looking for a job no matter how well educated. When all of life is reduced to Capitalism At It's Worst - what can we expect? Better teachers? Better students?

Efforts to remove foreign language classes from public schools at earlier grades flaps in the face of common sense. What we are seeing is an alarming and concerted effort put forward toward the dumbing down of America by the wealthy elite. Private schools get funded while public schools are having their budgets cut deeper and deeper. So will local and state governments be privatizing our public education systems along with the trash services? It could happen. We need look no further than our very own Sam Brownbackward to see the efforts of a Republican, who calls himself a Christian, to see an example of what is wrong with party line politics and their effects on every aspect of daily life. Education suffers greatly as a result along with many other things.

The idea that "we all must pay" for a failing economy has validity, but exactly how is it that when Republicans, like Brownbackward, say "we all must pay" the major burden falls upon the middle and lower income earners? Helping the rich to get richer and remain rich is not enriching our society and creating THE jobs as is so often the propaganda of the Republican Party Elite. Teachers are fleeing teaching at an alarming rate, not just from burn out, but because they can see that everytime a budget is cut to the bone again and again, another program is also cut and it is the students who suffer most.

As the Tea Party and fundamentalist Christians get their way, waving the false flag of Patriotism, GOD and country slogans and believing that they know what is best for an entire nation -- you can be sure the worst is yet to come.

If people stand by thinking that this drive to disempower the working class will stop on its own, think again.

devobrun 7 years ago

Teaching in public schools comes with price that private schools don't pay. Private schools can define themselves in terms like "excellence" and "college preparatory". They can ask students to leave.

While this situation may be bad for students, society, or your sense of fairness, it certainly isn't bad for teaching. When a teacher spends most of their time maintaining classroom discipline, teaching isn't fun anymore.
Our society has reduced the values of respect, discipline, and work ethic compared to 30 or 40 years ago. Teachers are on the front line of dealing with kids who haven't learned values. When society supports that lack of respect, teachers are expected to somehow plow through the garbage. Teachers would stay around for lower wages if the students they teach come to the classroom with a sense of right and wrong. I assert that teachers are leaving not because of pay, but because of the expectation placed upon them to raise the kids in their class. Yes, raise them. Teach them common courtesy. Teach them how to behave. Be their parents. There isn't enough money in the state to pay a teacher to be a parent to 30 kids who aren't taught simple human behavior at home. Kids are inundated with electronic images of sex, drugs, and violence. Dad is gone. Mom is a drunk. And the TV, internet, and music all raise those kids to value bad behavior.

And the teacher is supposed to fix all that. It's a marvel teachers in public schools last as long as they do.

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

Very well said, Devobrun. Very well.

jafs 7 years ago

Some good points there.

I'm pretty sure that the recent spike in retirements has a lot to do with the changes that will be made to the KPERS system, though.

tomatogrower 7 years ago

That has something to do with it, but if you were fighting the good fight, but then you're told that you can't look forward to a somewhat secure retirement, and, hey, we think you get paid to much, and we're going to blame all the problems on you, and call you names, then wouldn't you take your retirement and run? I think the threat to their KPERS was just the straw that broke a lot of backs.

jafs 7 years ago


I don't blame them at all!

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

Private schools serve a purpose, are allowed to discriminate in their enrollment and discipline policies and are a valuable resource that accounts for about 10% of the total student population. Overall, adjusted for these factors, their academic scores are similar to many public schools. We are heading for a voucher/charter system if the Republicans get what they want. I doubt many educators worry about these issues if the new system is required to meet the same standards as regular public schools and if the schools take all comers first come-first served. I suspect this is not the agenda, but we will see.

devobrun 7 years ago

Wow Paul, you have a sense of "allowed" that is different than mine. I teach high school physics at a private school. The school chose to exist. The students chose to go there, and I chose to teach there. None of us think in terms of being allowed to do these things.
The policies of the school are chosen. If those policies, or the people who implement them, are wrong.....students don't attend. The school ceases to exist. Allowed? Really? By whom?

Paul R Getto 7 years ago

devobrun: My only point is, private schools do not have to serve the same populations as the public schools, and are 'allowed' to choose whom they admit. Nothing wrong with that, but they shouldn't get public money for their schools.

devobrun 7 years ago

Public money. I like the euphemistic term. Seems to me a voucher is a rebate of "public money". And by returning money to a person so that they can use it for education at a place that they choose, you are simply allowing them to decide. With their own money. Not your money, Paul.
"Allowed" and "public money" are concepts that suggest that the collective is from where individuals are released and allowed to exist. That collective is the social contract, the government...heck it might even be King George III. And from those sovereigns the people are allowed to keep part of their money, or form alliances. Independence day is less than 3 weeks away, Paul.
Public it.

llama726 7 years ago

“If I was in college right now looking at what I want to do with the rest of my life, I am not sure I would choose teaching as a profession.” -- I agree. Why would you want to become a teacher? Low pay relative to others with comparable education, a stressful and draining job, competing against societal factors like less attention / time spent by parents, increasing dominance of media in young peoples' lives, improper peripherals like nutrition, massive interference in your profession from standardized testing, and the constant bad-mouthing of your profession by those who have a need to feel good about themselves by belittling others.

devobrun 7 years ago

"-- I agree. Why would you want to become a teacher? "

Because it is a job. It beats cleaning houses, or babysitting 2 year old toddlers in diapers. Retail sales? Want fries with that order? What else you gonna do?

OK, work for Knology. Talk to angry customers all day long. Drive around in a panel truck and fix busted cables. Pays the same, and it is raining out there. The military is always looking for warm bodies.

llama726 7 years ago

"Because it is a job. It beats cleaning houses,"

Not if you have to clean your classroom because the school district can't afford custodians.

"or babysitting 2 year old toddlers in diapers."

You're right, you're babysitting slightly older children. And teaching them. In fact, if you just babysat 18 kids at $3 per hour for 40 hours per week, 40 weeks out of the year, you'd make $86,400 per year. So, babysitting would be far more rewarding.

"Retail sales?" How many people with master's are in retail? Not as many as are in other professional fields. That being said, I'm confident that a Target store manager makes as much / more money than a teacher.

"Want fries with that order?" Yep. Fast food. See above.

"What else you gonna do?"

"OK, work for Knology. Talk to angry customers all day long. Drive around in a panel truck and fix busted cables. Pays the same, and it is raining out there."

You think that a little rain makes the job worse? Seriously? I'd rather be out dealing with a little rain than dealing with angry parents (who are often a lot angrier than cable customers). Not to mention the abuse you take for this in the rest of society.

"The military is always looking for warm bodies."

Yeah. Soldiers aren't paid well enough, either. Your best bet if you are interested in the military is to join a defense contractor. Get paid a lot more.

JayCat_67 7 years ago

Definitely seeing a lot of "Contractor" tapes where it used to say "US Army" on the uniforms at the ROTC training this year.

Gedanken 7 years ago

That is exactly what we need - more soldiers! I guess "public money" is okay when it goes to that - right?

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

I sent my child to a private school for six years. Loved every minute of it. But we moved and we decided to try Lawrence's public schools, mainly because they have such a good reputation. After one year, we went back to private school. See Dovobrun's comments of 9:37 am today. It was spot on. The teachers reminded me of someone who was trying hard to keep a lid on a boiling pot. Each classroom I went to, and I volunteered one day each week, was an example of just trying to maintain order. Teaching may be some distant goal, but just keeping the children behaved was their first goal. How any learning happens in that environment is beyond me.
The educational system needs to be a cooperative effort between parents and the schools. In my opinion, the problems are 95% parents and 5% everything else. Parents dump their kids, unprepared, undisciplined and uncaring at the footsteps of the school and expect the schools to perform magic. Even my child who says the class goes at the pace of the slowest learner knows that something is wrong. Mainstreaming problem children, slow learners sounds good, especially for those children. But it's a disaster for those who truly want a quality education.
I spoke with a teachers at my child's elementary school, the private one. She said she accepted a much lower wage just so she didn't have to deal with those issues. She's a great teacher and my child learned a lot under her guidance. She's a teacher, not a babysitter or truant officer. As for vouchers, I don't want one. I've made my choice and I'll pay my own way. I really do wish the public schools the best. They need every penny they can get to hopefully attract quality teachers. But until parents step up and become the responsible party they need to become, I suspect the school system will continue to be mediocre at best.

devobrun 7 years ago

"But until parents step up and become the responsible party they need to become, I suspect the school system will continue to be mediocre at best." Given our current level of government involvement in people's lives and projecting that involvement forward, I wonder what changes in parent involvement are likely. I think that parents are being replaced gradually, subtly, carefully at all levels of our society. Because some kids don't have parents and some kids have lousy parents, all kids get treated to information and knowledge that used to come from the family. The result is a kid who looks toward the borg for the rest of their life.

And that is the point. Create people who depend on the wisdom of the "experts" to tell them what to do. It is inculcated into the little kid's heads early and often. Believe the expert. Trust the government bureaucrat. Parents are amateurs. Trust the professional child rearing expert. No jhawkinsf, parents won't step up more as time goes by. Just the opposite will be true.
So save your coins young folks of means, you'll need all you can get to send your kid to a private school. The public schools don't have a very bright future, regardless how much(or little) their teachers make.

sciencegeek 7 years ago

"Teaching is the only profession where the amateurs tell the professionals how to do their jobs."

Much of what is happening in education is the direct result of the parents making demands that make no sense. If it were up to the teachers, students would have to show up unless they were physically sick, finish their homework every night and be allowed to fail if they didn't, and follow the teacher's instructions without having mommy and daddy complain to the principal because the teacher was "picking on him". A principal could impose discipline based on comon sense rather than being raked over the coals by spoiled parents and clueless school boards. They wouldn't have to worry about being hit, spat on, cussed out and demeaned by first-graders who knew there would be no punishment (yes, it's happened.)

So the next time you write an excuse for your kid because soccer practice ran late or you wanted to start your ski trip early, or you cussed out a teacher who hurt your little angel's feelings, remember what Pogo said: "We have met the enemy, and they are us."

devobrun 7 years ago

Sciencegeek, sounds like a private school.

devobrun 7 years ago

First rule of dismissive rhetoric.....invoke conspiracy.
Man, you started out your entry poorly.

Then you redeemed yourself: 1) As better students are siphoned off from the public schools, the public schools have crummier students. Check. 2) All classes must deal with the slowest learner. But private schools can cull those down to a minimum. Advanced, honors, and AP classes exist in public schools as well as private schools. 3) Alas, life skill classes are diminishing. Shop classes are expensive and going out of style, in lieu of computer classes. 4) Parents should be grown ups. All adults should be grown ups. Collective solutions to individual problems fertilize the notion that the collective will abide and the individual is just a member of a group that will benefit. * Thus, adults are not grown up. They fail to thrive, but they don't die. Invalids generated by the borg.

  • Note my earlier entry from this morning to Paul. Euphemisms like "allow" and "public money" invoked as a standard approach to the world we live in. As if you are allowed to exist and have money. After all, we really exist to serve the borg.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

"They fail to thrive, but they don't die."

And pretending "they" don't exist, as you'd prefer to do, won't mean they don't. Unless you have some sort of final solution to propose.

devobrun 7 years ago

Final solution.....Godwin's law. You made it to the end of blogging, bozo. Congratulations.

beatrice 7 years ago

So you are suggesting a system in which those who could afford to pay for education would send their children to school, and the poor who could not would not. Got it.

Not exactly sure how that would help the poor, as you claim it would, but thanks for another pearl of libertarian wisdom.

I know. Perhaps the poor will just pay for schooling themselves ... with scholarships.

beatrice 7 years ago

You just compared education to a cell phone, because, you know, they are so similar.

The problem facing education today is the refusal to fund it efficiently. Instead, we spend many, many times more on war. Regarding your idea, we can find historical examples of what you suggest. It had something to do with the landed gentry and peasants. The peasants eventually revolted, and that is exactly what I think of your idea -- revolting.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

beatrice 7 years ago

I'm sorry I missed your response. I'm sure it was brimming over with great complexity. Yep, I'm quite sure your response was full of it.

gkerr 7 years ago

LibertyOne, I disagree. We are a civilized nation that knows the importance of educating our children and grandchildren. We want all children to be well educated, and are willing to fund from the public purse at least a substantial share of the true cost. Our disagreement is on the details. I feel that the Public school system is no where as proficient as it should be, as it has been handicapped by an entrenched special interest group known as the public educational lobby, a sort of ancient guild system rooting out competition, innovation, excellence that it does not control. It is paralyzed by partisan politics, unionism, cultivating ever increasing contributions from the public treasury and a shirking of willingness to admit failure. They have stood by helplessly refusing to defend traditional values against secular barbarians at the gate. They have betrayed the first amendment and teach a value free judgement free stance which is inhuman and impossible to enforce because we humans believe in first principles and can ot be brainwashed out of believing in them. The secular left that have come to dominate the Public schools kid themselves when they claim to be assumption free and dependent solely on unbiased reason.

Vouchers, parental choice, freedom to choose schooling which matches more closely parental and societal values, not elitist secular values, is a legitimate and non-negotiable requirement to solve the current impasse. There is no other solution to improving decisively the quality of education and character formation in our children. There must be competition of ideas. The secular monolith has failed miserably. Gkerr

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