Do poor children suffer because public schools can't afford good teachers?

@Rollo1 (16638)
Boston, Massachusetts
March 5, 2011 5:55pm CST
I keep hearing that we need to pay public school teachers well if we expect to be able to attract and keep good teachers. The unions protesting right now in Wisconsin warn that to withhold collective bargaining rights from teachers for things like benefits will cause the public school education quality to go down - good teachers will leave the system and our children will suffer. Parents who cannot afford private schools and who have to send their children to public schools will find their education severely affected by the low teacher salaries because they automatically mean lower quality teachers. As you can read here from the Dept of Education website, private school test scores were higher than public school test scores. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/studies/2006461.asp This must be, you think, because private schools are paid for by rich parents and because they have all that money, they must pay their teachers a much higher salary, attracting only the best and the brightest. Well, you might think so, but the truth is that PUBLIC school teachers make, on average, about 10K MORE per year than private school teachers. "In 2007–08, the average annual base salary of regular full-time public school teachers ($49,600) was higher than the average annual base salary of regular full-time private school teachers ($36,300)." http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=55 Why do public schools fare so badly when they pay teachers so well? The first clue is in the first word "public". Government just doesn't do anything very well and again proves that the private sector can do things less expensively and better - even education. It has never been my experience that people worked harder because you paid them more. Common sense tells us that people will work harder to try to get paid more, but if you hand out raises without results, you won't get any. There is the difference. Private schools can fire teachers who do not perform whereas public school teacher unions prevent the firing of bad teachers, or even teachers convicted of crimes, insisting that seniority is more important than quality in decisions about retention or firing. Should we pay teachers more if it does not result in better teachers or better education for our children?
9 responses
@mattic (282)
• United States
6 Mar 11
All children, rich and poor alike, suffer from an absence of competition fostered by government school monopolism. They also suffer from the idiotic principle of "mandatory" education. Education is, and should be, the responsibility of the parents. The current system is simply more collectivist wealth redistribution (property taxes provide the majority of school funding).
1 person likes this
@Rollo1 (16638)
• Boston, Massachusetts
6 Mar 11
As I commented above, the absence of the prospect of failure dooms all students to mediocrity. This was not the case when I went to school. I know some kids will need extra help and I applaud the efforts of those in special education roles. But the majority of kids learn from competition and can learn to excel.
@mattic (282)
• United States
6 Mar 11
Exactly. The irony is that it is only those unwilling to excel who push for "leveling the playing field". The "A" student's parents never complain about the tests being too hard or unfair. The successful businessman never attempts to rein in the competition. It is only the losers who want help.
@matersfish (6312)
• United States
6 Mar 11
It's hard to fix the public education system as far as "pay" is concerned when, according to union philosophy, every tenured teacher deserves to make the same and deserves to teach children for life. Public teachers make more than private teachers and taxpayers pay more per public school child than for any type of school not subject to the state's/district's standards. Why on earth should teachers be paid more if they're not producing results? And they're not. Yes, there are MANY good teachers out there. There are many good public schools. But there are also many BAD teachers and BAD schools out there. But according to the unions not even allowing teachers to have a voice other than 100% pro union, every single teacher has the right to teach and the right to same money and benefits per school. And any attempt to change this is somehow against their rights and unfair. So while the grown ups carry on about what's "fair" for them, they don't seem to care at all what's fair for the children. If every public school teacher in America stepped out from under the blanketed tenure system and subscribed to merit pay instead, the best educators would rise to the top and the idiots would find other jobs they're actually good at. Passing a literature course doesn't mean you're guaranteed to make a good living as a writer or researcher. It only helps out. But the way we have allowed the public education system to operate, degrees can guarantee teaching if you can keep your nose clean for a few years. After that, you've earned the "right" to teach for life and to make as much money as the best, most popular teacher in the school. How is this about the kids if the kids are never considered in any negotiations? Government ultimately spends much more money on children, hoping beyond hope that extra funding fixes it, because we all know only one in ten thousand politicians is willing to take on anything "union."
1 person likes this
@Rollo1 (16638)
• Boston, Massachusetts
6 Mar 11
In New York the mayor is meeting opposition from the unions on changing the way they decide which teachers may be laid off or fired. The city wants to fire those who have been convicted of a crime or received disciplinary action first but the union insists on the "last in, first out" rule. I think a lot of teachers are good teachers. I think that most teachers care about what they do. The union doesn't, however. They care about the power of the union first. I had an English Lit teacher once argue with me about the meaning of a short story by Poe that he had not read and that I had. He was the kind of teacher that taught from the back of the text book where the answers for the teachers are. He didn't have any spark or insight or any business being in a classroom. He taught in that high school for about 20 years.
• United States
6 Mar 11
I agree. There are many good teachers. And in my mind, teachers deserve to make good money. They put a hell of a lot into their jobs. They sacrifice a lot in their personal lives to teach other people's children. Great teachers should earn great pay. But I also fear there are too many teachers like your English Lit teacher and like my math, science and social studies teachers. I had a teacher who set a separate standard in the classroom for white and black students. He didn't even try to hide it. White students speaking up in class would be sent to the office, black students speaking up would get a calm line of questioning while he attempted to gauge their feelings. And that's not even as bad as my science teacher threatening to fight kids and my math teacher outright refusing to teach. They were still at the school and taught my youngest brother, who went through those classes 7 years after I did. Hell, I'm not against the unions. I'm certainly not against the teachers. But the system they have in place to get rid of bad teachers is just incredibly ridiculous. I read on the Washington Post and a few other places that it's not actually like that - principals and others in charge of the school can easily fire teachers. Can they? Or do they mean they can just get them out of that school and put into another school? If I were a good teacher, I'd be demanding change. And not for pay and salary and collective bargaining rights, but because the bad teachers, of which there are plenty, are hurting kids and giving all teachers a bad name. I think most of us probably know of at least one really bad teacher. And one is too many.
@dragon54u (31623)
• United States
6 Mar 11
I think we should pay teachers on the results. Give them their salary the first year but the following years their pay should be commiserate with their students' performance and grades. Private schools are also able to discipline their students. If a student disrupts the class or breaks the rules they are allowed, and the parents have consented to, discipline/punishment, etc. That makes a BIG difference in how children learn! Who can learn when half the class in your public school is misbehaving and no one can do anything about it for fear of damaging their self esteem or whatever?!
1 person likes this
@Rollo1 (16638)
• Boston, Massachusetts
6 Mar 11
The teachers teach the standardized tests, they teach strategies for passing the tests because that determines the school district's funding etc. Schools that do well on tests try to move students who don't perform to other schools with poorer results. This puts the under-performing child with other children who under-perform and the reasons for this can be different from child to child. Some may have simple learning disabilities, others have severe emotional disturbance. This creates an environment that dooms the child with a disability to failure forever and possibly leads to bigger problems. Results are important, but their method for determining them seems to be faulty and there has to be a better way to serve all children and still keep educational standards. Keeping under-performing teachers because their contract says you have to, is not the right way. Discipline has to be part of the equation as well. Parents have to be willing to hear that their child isn't always perfect and teachers need to be able to discipline (reasonably) without fear of lawsuits. The system as it is does not work.
2 people like this
• Australia
6 Mar 11
Personally, and in my own experience,how well a child does at school is a rerlection of the work they put in. Good teachers can help, if they know what their talking about, can answer questions the child. However no matter what the teacher does, he/she cannot make the child learn if the child themselves refuse to. Here in Australia, the top schools are actually government schools, called Selective Schools, because you have to sit a test to enter one, and depending on your score you can enter a different school. But, as a government school if you get the marks you get in regardless of whether your rich or poor. Thanks.
1 person likes this
@Rollo1 (16638)
• Boston, Massachusetts
6 Mar 11
I think that it also depends on what the child sees as the expectations. Some kids need some more help and will have to have more special education to reach guidelines but if the guidelines for most students are very flexible and the standards are not clear, even the children who are gifted won't meet them consistently because the consistency of expectation is not there. Once we decide that no one can ever receive a failing grade, we doom everyone to mediocrity, there's no reason to excel.
@Taskr36 (13923)
• United States
6 Mar 11
Frankly, I think it just comes down to the parents. Parents who are willing to put their kids in private schools are more likely to be parents that care about, and are involved in their children's education. Private school teachers are paid poorly, and have lower standards for getting hired, at least as far as degrees and certifications go. Private schools also lack the fancy technology that public schools waste money on. My wife taught at a private school. They were paying her $10 an hour to run a computer lab with eMachines computers running Windows 95, yes, NINETY-FIVE and she taught at this school in 2005. And for anyone who doesn't know computers, eMachines is notorious for making the biggest pieces of garbage in the known world. She even told them that I would build computers to replace them at cost and they just didn't have the money. Well, technically they had it they just wouldn't allocate it to computers because that wasn't a priority. Basic supplies were more important. Again, parents are the biggest element. No amount of money dumped into schools or stupid and unnecessary technology can make up for good parenting. Also, as another poster mentioned, public schools can't turn away children that don't match up to their standards. Of course all that aside, your basic point is correct. Public schools don't suffer because they can't afford good teachers. Teachers get paid adequately. I don't think anyone goes into teaching for the money and if you're a teacher, it's either private or public school. It's not like there are big private sector jobs looking for teachers that have more competitive pay and benefits. The only benefit of working in a private school is better students and parents. The pay and benefits typically stink.
1 person likes this
@Rollo1 (16638)
• Boston, Massachusetts
6 Mar 11
I know that computers are important to teach these days, but I don't think that having the latest machines is absolutely necessary. A lot of these kids have computers at home. I think basic supplies are more important. But the most important factor is the teaching. We didn't have any computers when I was in school but we learned basic course curriculum nonetheless. The basics are the most important, the computers are for learning a technology that most jobs will employ. By the time they get to middle school, most of these kids know more than their teachers when it comes to computers, anyway. I think a lot of parents want to be involved in the school work and the discipline but it's difficult. Schools can't discipline much without fear of lawsuits and it's not even easy to find out how the child behaves or works. We need to get back to a time when kids actually fear getting sent to the principal, because they know that they will get punishment at home for that kind of behavior. But it's not just money. Paying people more doesn't make them work harder or better. Not if the money comes without the results having come first.
@asyria51 (2862)
• United States
6 Mar 11
Another argument to be made is the quality of student behavior and the inherent threat of a kid getting kicked out of private school. PUBLIC school has to accept everyone, private school does not. Most private schools do not have special ed classes (which lower the overall test scores for a school and or district). Most private schools do not have the same level of behaviors as the public schools do, and there is little recourse when there is little or no help from home. From my experience having worked in both sectors of education, the more involved the parents and the more the parents value education, the better the student does. If a parent is not involved than that student is not going to do as well. When does it stop being just the teachers job to teach children. When do parents have to have some accountability?
1 person likes this
@Rollo1 (16638)
• Boston, Massachusetts
6 Mar 11
It was the common wisdom when I entered high school that the kids coming in from spending grades 1-8 in private, parochial schools were the worst behaved and most likely to be wild. It was definitely true of some, who being released from the discipline of private school, went overboard in the new freedom of public school atmosphere. The problem with public school is that, as the state, they try to usurp parental authority and pretty much believe that they are a second set of parents. The schools have to give up that concept and that role. They are the teachers, the parents have the parental duties.
• United States
6 Mar 11
Whatever you look at it competition down to the parents. No matter how much money they. Have
1 person likes this
@Rollo1 (16638)
• Boston, Massachusetts
6 Mar 11
Parents are important. They need to teach the kids that education is important.
@Elixiress (3882)
6 Mar 11
It depends on what you measure the standard of "good teaching" by, if you measure it based on earnings then I agree the public schools are going to suffer. However, if you measure the ability of the teacher on their intentions then no public schools are not going to suffer. A good teacher will teach in a school in an area that needs teachers, rather than going for the money because they will want to enrich a child's life.
@rosegardens (3040)
• United States
6 Mar 11
There is another part to this. I do agree with you. In the public school system, most especially in poor communities, there is an element of parents who do not care about their childs education. When the parents are not involved in the education of a child, the child will not learn no matter where you put that kid. Unless the child is interested in the subjects without any help from parents. That is a rarity. I do know the private school teachers make a lot less than the public school teachers do. I went to a private school. I was amazed my friends who went to public school had homework MAYBE once a year! Huh? How is a child to learn anything without homework? My education was light years from theirs. Had they the education I did, I'm sure they would be millionaires now. Fortunately most came from good families and they did end up making something of themselves. Even the kid who was raised by a disabled parent made something of himself, probably due to the fact he had the rest of us as friends. We encouraged him to get a job, and that was the best thing ever. He has a good career going for himself now. There were teachers in the public school that weren't worth their weight in dog doo. I ended up going to the public school for the last year and a half of high school. There were only 3 teachers out of all those classes that gave a hoot about our education. There were a few that were so darned lazy they should have been fired years prior, but they had been there so long. The union wouldn't let them be fired, and besides, it seems so few people cared. The benefit a private school teacher gets is to actually teach the class at the grade level they want to. In private school, they are 2-4 years ahead academically. These teachers have pride in seeing the student achieve, and not having to worry about getting shot, stabbed, threatened, beaten, etc. for giving a low grade to a poor performing student.