In a previous entry I discussed how during the recession the structure of teacher pay was gutted and never resurrected. The end result has been that teachers today, that taught a decade ago, are in worse financial positions than a decade ago.
While we all hear about the turnover of new teachers, this financial situation is forcing veteran, experienced teachers from the profession.
Teaching takes a long, long time to learn how to do. If I had to pin a number on how long it took become a component teacher, I’d say 5 years. Regardless of that number, the quality of education coming from a beginning teacher is low, regardless of their potential as a teacher.
I’d like to draw your attention to how veteran teachers, mid-career, are leaving, and what that means for students. These are the heavy lifters on campuses, those with experience to help new teachers and the energy, lacking from those ready to retire, to do it. But, they can’t make ends meet! To teach has become a luxury that most cannot afford.
In a post coming soon I’ll discuss how reported teacher salaries are grossly misleading. You can decide for yourselves, but according to our research the average teacher salary in Arizona is in the middle $30,000 before deductions and taxes. Throw in medical insurance premiums of up to $8,000, 12% mandatory withholding for ASRS, and taxes, teachers are trying to me ends meet on around $700 to $800 a paycheck.
Now consider that, supposedly, ¼ of teachers in Arizona are within 4 years of retiring. In that four-year period droves of veteran teachers will find new careers.
The people that will step in will be unqualified or brand new, and as pointed out earlier, doing low quality work. However, without veteran teachers to mentor and coach these new people along, I don’t believe it’s a stretch to imagine that the end result will be damaging to the hopes of students.
If a quality education removes barriers,allowing people access to better lives, and teachers provide that education, and they are leaving in droves because they cannot pay the electric bill, and the public doesn’t hold the governments (state and local) accountable, we will be paying higher taxes for welfare and prisons. Is that run-on sentence hyperbole?
Is it a stretch to claim that if education is not properly funded today, with powerful oversight to keep the money going where it most matters for students, that we will instead be paying for an increasingly militarized police force? We can give those in greatest need of a quality education access today, or we can incarcerate them tomorrow.
The stability of our economy and the stability of our society is dependent on a quality education system.
This is a crisis in the making. We need to exact massive reform in education today!
This coming year is an election year. School boards and state level officials from both parties need to feel the urgency of fixing this. Education reform must be the top priority this November!