Yesterday I wrote about Gov. Brewer’s plan to funnel more money into private and parochial schools.1 In the comments I saw that someone suggested I didn’t like private schools. Quite the contrary, much of my career has been spent working in private schools, that is, as part of one of my second careers. Nearly all teachers work more than one job. In my thirty plus years as an educator I have held as many as four different jobs at a time. One of them was as a coach for chess teams and some of the best teams I ever had the pleasure to work with were in private schools.
More than once I have been asked if I would consider working at those schools as a regular teacher on a permanent basis. Every time I was asked I politely declined. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the schools were good enough, I simply couldn’t afford the pay cut. Despite the fact that as a public school teacher I had to work a second job most of the time, the salary I was paid was more than even the best of the private schools could afford to pay.
I deplore the lack of adequate pay for all teachers, be they public, private or parochial. I want to see my profession valued for what they do not blamed for what has happened. Good private schools hire qualified teachers and devote themselves to educating their students but they don’t pay well. Increasing the educational funding for privatization at the expense of public schools is a bad idea, particularly for schools that are run for profit. There will be no ‘trickle down’. Those who run the program will reap the monetary benefits but teachers will continue to be undervalued. It is an idea as bad as making our armed forces a private corporation or the current trend towards privatization of prisons so prevalent in Arizona.
Today on the advice of a fellow educator I read this article: “The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries” by Dave Eggers and NÍnive Clements Calegari in the New York Times OpEds.2 Among their arguments they offerred a very interesting allusion: we don’t blame our soldiers for failures in war, we blame those in charge; the generals or the leaders of the country. What’s more when we realize that we are struggling at war we don’t cut the supplies and support given our troops; we increase it.
Education in the United States is at war. We are fighting against apathy, ignorance and a general lack of support. Teachers are on the front line of this war on a daily basis. To win it we must support all educators and ensure that they have all that they need to succeed. It isn’t enough to say something needs to get better and then walk away. Put your money where your mouth says it is: support education, fully fund schools, pay teachers so they will want to remain in the field and most of all recognize educational professionals as experts in what they do and trust their judgement rather than impose political solutions to educational problems.