Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/ 8/2010

A public school teacher’s distress

By Valerie Strauss

Here is one of the many desperate emails and letters from teachers that education historian Diane Ravitch, author of the bestselling book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, receives every day.

Ravitch has emerged as the country's most prominent independent voice in opposition to the current wave of "school reform" that is supported by the Obama administration, and as a result, public school teachers by the thousands have written to her.

The letter below was written by Toledo public school music teacher and author Robyn Hage, who gave me permission to publish it. In June, I published a letter by a Florida teacher who wrote that after more than three decades in the classroom, he was experiencing the worst year in his career because of a string of "reforms" that have foisted a mountain of standardized tests on his students and a phony accountability system for teachers.

I occasionally publish letters sent to Ravitch because they come directly from teachers and they tell us what is really going on in our public schools.

From Robyn Hage to Ravitch:

"First, let me apologize for contacting you and adding to your burden of reading yet another email from a discouraged teacher. However, after the events of this week my thoughts turned to you since you are in a position to affect change on the future of education in our country. I read your book in the spring and emailed you then to thank you for your efforts.

"For the second time in the past six months, voters have turned down our school levy in the City of Toledo regardless of the fact that our school district has already imposed drastic cuts. Transportation has been eliminated, sports have been slashed and teachers with many years of seniority have been laid off.

"I find myself in a position of being laid off for next school year despite having 19 years of seniority. It used to be that entering the educational profession, which despite little pay, at least offered a promise of job security. Now even that small reward for public service is gone.

"Worse yet, the electorates in the State of Ohio voted for a full slate of politicians who are not friendly towards public education. Whereas Ohio is recognized as a bellwether state for politics, I believe the same holds true for education. We have some of the highest number of charter schools in the country. [Some of ] our charter schools are in such disarray that this past spring, the governing boards of 10 Ohio charter schools actually filed a lawsuit against their charter school operators. With their continued infighting and transfer of public funds into private hands, I do not understand why they are not being held to the same standards as public education.

"I do not fault the citizens of Toledo for voting down our school levy. From 2000-2008 Toledo had the 3rd largest household income loss in the country which was 14.3%. The burden to educate our future children cannot fall on these same people time and time again.

"Change in funding must occur immediately if public education is to survive."

-0-

Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | November 8, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Charter schools, Teachers  | Tags:  charter schools, diane ravitch, no child left behind, school reform, tax levy, taxes, teachers, toldeo schools  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Why technology scares (some of) us -- and what to do about it
Next: Willingham: What student athletes should know

Comments

Not much about the kids here, other than a vague reference to transportation and sports. No mention of academics.

A lot about teacher seniority, explicitly viewed as a "reward," being threatened.

Interesting.

Posted by: trace1 | November 8, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

I am confused...to what standards are Ohio charter schools held? In my district they can be shut down if they don't make AYP two years in a row...that is much faster than an regular government school can be shut down...what gives?

Posted by: knoxelcomcastnet | November 8, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

I would hope that a teacher with 19 years of experience would have slightly better writing skills.

If I had written "From 2000-2008 Toledo had the 3rd largest household income loss in the country which was 14.3%." my middle school English teacher would have gone to town with her red pen.

Posted by: mulberry4210 | November 8, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I would hope that a teacher with 19 years of experience would have slightly better writing skills.

If I had written "From 2000-2008 Toledo had the 3rd largest household income loss in the country which was 14.3%." my middle school English teacher would have gone to town with her red pen.

Posted by: mulberry4210 | November 8, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Charter schools in Ohio are held to the same exact performance standards and receive the same exact state report cards as district schools. In fact charter schools have stricter performance criteria. Any charter school that has a performance level of "academic emergency" for 2 or 3 consecutive years (depending on elementary-middle or high school) that doesn't make expected test score gains in reading or math gets shut down. Not so for district schools. As head of the charter school association I am keenly aware of these facts. Ohio charter schools are supportive of Ohio's tough closure provisions because chronically under-performing schools should close and parents who choose schools for their children should have that reasonable expectation.

Posted by: willjsims | November 8, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

"[A]ffect change?"

Get the red pen, mulberry 4210.

Posted by: trace1 | November 8, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse


The teacher is not claiming that she has a right to a job for life. She is claiming that the poor economy has made what was once considered a necessity ( a teacher in every classroom), now a luxury that Toledo voters do not feel they can afford.

Since teachers do not ride the school bus to school, we have to assume that this teacher does care about the students. She mentions school transportation being eliminated.

There is no indication in her letter that she doesn't care about students. In fact, it appears that she has spent 19 years of her life caring about students.

Posted by: celestun100 | November 8, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I agree with celestun. Without proper funding, both students and teachers suffer. Toledoans are no longer able to give to the school systems to the same degree that they have in the past.

The fact that this letter was written indicates that the author cares for the students, her peers, and her city. I don't see the selfish angle that a few have pointed out...

[and "affect" IS the proper term in this case, btw]

Posted by: goose10 | November 8, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

3 points:
1.
"...From 2000-2008 Toledo had the 3rd largest household income loss in the country which was 14.3%. The burden to educate our future children cannot fall on these same people time and time again..."

I am guessing this refers to funds from property taxes? If so, we've had a big problem for many years relying only on property taxes to educate the future generations........we don't exactly rely on property taxes to fund the Afghanistan war, do we?

2.
Arizona is experiencing the same, if not a worse crisis with school funding: my daughter says that her son's school and others are having to hold fundraiser after fundraiser just to meet basic school needs, as well as ask parents to continually send in extra school supplies....not only do the schools not have money, many of the parents' incomes have drastically declined or been lost altogether,and they are having trouble just sending in items like paper towels and crayons. There used to be 5 music teachers for the district; all 5 were let go, then a lottery of sorts was held to hire ONE music teacher back to handle whatever music would be provided.

3.
@ the critics of this teacher's writing: she is obviously distraught......most people can't think straight let alone write coherently after periods of sustained stress..........what does this tell you about the stress level the writer is probably experiencing.....and very likely other teachers are experiencing?

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | November 8, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

She is talking about property taxes. While that system was never "equal", it made more sense before the foreclosure problem.

Ohio has also been hard hit by the auto industry problems. Toledo was known as a manufacturing center for auto parts.

I don't really think this is a question of charters vs. public schools, although I am sure the bad situation is worsened by the division of funds.

"Reform" in the context of true economic suffering is just a word. If "reform" just means saving money, then there should be no pretense about improving schools. It should be called "budget cutting" not "reform".

A city the size of Toledo without school busses? That is a new low.

Posted by: celestun100 | November 8, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Question for author of the letter or other informed Toledan:

Has your school busses actually been eliminated or do you mean for field trips and after school activities?

Posted by: celestun100 | November 8, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I meant to type "Have" above.

and the plural of bus is "busses" or "buses", I checked.

Posted by: celestun100 | November 8, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

This is indeed a difficult time for teachers but there are two changes occurring at the present time that should give teachers hope.

The vast number of baby boomer teachers are now retirement age and will be leaving their schools in droves within the next ten years. Coupled with this is the fact that there are no more "captive" women to take their places. Personally I know of only one young man who is contemplating a career in high school teaching. All the young women I know are in many fields. The two that are in education are both college professors.

So, hold on, Ms. Hage. Better days are coming.

(I'm not certain but I think both "affect" and "effect" are proper in the above context, depending on what meaning is intended. If a person wants to influence change, he would "affect change." If he wants make change happen, he would "effect change.")

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/affect-versus-effect.aspx

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 8, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Not to belabor the point, Linda/RetiredTeacher but to "bring about change" is to "effect change." That is what the writer seems to have intended here.

And personally, I find your post astonishing. You're telling this teacher that "better days" are coming because no one wants to go into teaching anyway so her job will be secure? That's the problem right there in a nutshell. All about job security, not about the kids getting excellent candidates in their classrooms.

Posted by: trace1 | November 8, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Transportation has been completely cut at the high school and middle school level. Only elementary students who live beyond 2 miles of their school have bus service. All middle school sports have been cut as well as freshmen sports. I wrote this on Friday quickly and I apologize if my grammar is not perfect. I do care about the students and that's why I took the time to write it. I am simply hoping that exposure leads to changes.

Posted by: Rhage | November 8, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"Change in funding must occur immediately if public education is to survive."

True, but we also have to look at education spending. Education costs have gone up exponentially in the last few decades, but there hasn't been a solid return on that investment.

So, I would say change in funding AND spending needs to occur. These are tough times, but schools have wasted tremendous amounts of money, as well. Cutting bus service and athletics is a shame, but it will do schools a world of good to more closely scrutinize their spending in the long run.

Posted by: AJGuzzaldo | November 8, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Trace1:

You should know from my posts that I believe the worst thing that can happen to children is for their teachers to be disrespected and bashed. This will cause people to avoid the profession, which I believe is already happening.

When teachers become so scarce that districts can't hire enough, then we'll see better salaries and working conditions for teachers. That will result in better teachers for children and better treatment for teachers.

Whatever you do for parents and teachers generally helps the children in their care. Please help improve education by supporting the work that teachers do.

(I do agree that "effect change" was probably the intended meaning.)

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 8, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Most of us should sympathize with the Toledo teacher, even if a sense of job entitlement crept into her account.

As for the solution, we should be confident that Professor David DHume1 has it. He has a knack for finding solutions in the Great Books of our time.

Posted by: axolotl | November 8, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Nope, I have nothing this time. I just do not know enough about her situation to comment on it and everyone else seems to be doing a better job than I.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 8, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Protect your daughter, tell her not to go into the teaching profession!

Posted by: educationlover54 | November 8, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Our daughters are now making their own decisions and they are choosing the same professions as our sons. That's bad news for K-12.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 8, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Let's focus on the content of the message -not pick on grammar or writing skills - few of us are perfect writers and it only serves to distract us from the point... While I don't believe teachers are entitled to jobs for life, her point is valid: while none of us will get rich as teachers, at least there was a sense of security in the profession (assuming you are doing your job- but that's the subject of another thread...) Is this wrong? Aren't college kids today looking at the predictions of where the jobs will be in the future - which fields are growing - thereby providing some sense of security by going into that field? Losing veteran teachers is a bad sign. It hurts kids. We all know "new" teachers are cheaper - but we also know it takes us about three years to really figure out what the heck we are doing in the classroom and about 5 or more years to really get good at teaching. Who will mentor the newbies? Who will lead the departments and grade-level teams? There simply is no way to replace the practical knowledge and experience of veteran teachers. Think about it - when you pick a doctor, do you want one fresh out of med school, or one with 10 or more years of experience?

Posted by: KAD4 | November 8, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Let's put the teacher-bashing and "job-security" in its place.
Everyone should be grateful that Ms Hume and all other teachers do have jobs - who else is going to teach your children? Along with the other public servants, police and fire protection, schools are one of those three primary government services everybody wants and expects but tries to have on the cheap. Would you have fewer firemen and police working because you can bash them for being "bad" at their job? Why do teachers deserve anything less than the same respect given to doctors and lawyers as professionals and experts in their fields? To tell someone they should not have job security is very hateful and short-sighted. American society needs as many good teachers as it can get and KEEP them working.

Toledo has sunk even lower in the past. The late-seventies oil crisis devastated the auto-parts manufacturers and jobs disappeared faster than the off-shoring that goes on now. So the School Board, among other cuts, decided to not pay insurance premiums on playground equipment and tore out every piece. Times got better and new stuff went in but just imagine completely barren playgrounds.

Ms Hage, in spite of some of the nasty comments above, you have the sympathy and support of the vast majority of citizens out here. It is extra discouraging for you as a music teacher to hear this negative stuff since so many districts around the country cut it, not comprehending its necessity in a complete education. Look to various organizations around town for support and help in lobbying the Board and enlisting the public for the schools. There are a great number of resources out there. Good luck and bless you for sticking it out even this far.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | November 8, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Let's put the teacher-bashing and "job-security" in its place.
Everyone should be grateful that Ms Hume and all other teachers do have jobs - who else is going to teach your children? Along with the other public servants, police and fire protection, schools are one of those three primary government services everybody wants and expects but tries to have on the cheap. Would you have fewer firemen and police working because you can bash them for being "bad" at their job? Why do teachers deserve anything less than the same respect given to doctors and lawyers as professionals and experts in their fields? To tell someone they should not have job security is very hateful and short-sighted. American society needs as many good teachers as it can get and KEEP them working.

Toledo has sunk even lower in the past. The late-seventies oil crisis devastated the auto-parts manufacturers and jobs disappeared faster than the off-shoring that goes on now. So the School Board, among other cuts, decided to not pay insurance premiums on playground equipment and tore out every piece. Times got better and new stuff went in but just imagine completely barren playgrounds.

Ms Hage, in spite of some of the nasty comments above, you have the sympathy and support of the vast majority of citizens out here. It is extra discouraging for you as a music teacher to hear this negative stuff since so many districts around the country cut it, not comprehending its necessity in a complete education. Look to various organizations around town for support and help in lobbying the Board and enlisting the public for the schools. There are a great number of resources out there. Good luck and bless you for sticking it out even this far.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | November 8, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I worked in public education in Florida for 25 years. Since retired. I remember what one of my first principals read to the faculty one meeting. "If you don't feed the teachers they'll eat the students".

I wish the powers that be good luck in making education better by starving the faculty!

Posted by: D_Kall | November 8, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

1bnthrdntht makes an excellent point. Ms. Hage, you do indeed have the support of the American people. Poll after poll tells us that the majority of citizens support their local schools and teachers. People are hurting right now because of the recession and that's what we're seeing.

Hell will freeze over before the American public turns against schoolteachers.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 8, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Linda/RT: you say, "Hell will freeze over before the American public turns against schoolteachers." I understand your intention, and would like to agree, but with a small proviso:

Yes, public school teachers are among the most important people in a community. They deserve our support. While they also deserve respect, they need to demonstrate some achievement to retain our respect.

Taking no responsibility for classroom education or blaming lack of achievement on poverty or parental inattention causes many of us to lose respect--really quickly--for teachers.

Unfortunately, the unionistas, including some on this blogue, exhibit this position; indeed, these particular teachers treat their jobs as an entitlement and approach the profession in a "teacher-centric" way. We expect better. So does Mayor-elect Vince Gray, and many of the people who voted for him, as well as other DC citizens.

Posted by: axolotl | November 8, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like Toledo is considering cutting back on their music programs.

I am really thankful that my kids still have band, orchestra and music classes at their schools. I do not consider any of those classes a waste of time.

We also have a safe school bus that picks up the kids on our street. I don't consider that a waste either, because it saves on gas consumption and traffic congestion and we live too far to walk.

I think that when these basic things are cut it is a very bad sign for our schoolchildren, for families and for the future of our country.

Of course we could do without music teachers and school bus drivers. There are places where all music lessons are private and kids take public transportation to school. There are also places where children don't attend school because they can't get there. These areas are usually places people want to move away from.

School buses are now an "entitlement"?

Posted by: celestun100 | November 8, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Axolotl:

The achievement of the American people has been nothing short of phenomenal. Look up any prize in any field (science, technology, law, business, theatre, film, medicine, defense, sports, etc. etc.) and you will see Americans. Most of these accomplished people attended public schools and were taught by public school teachers. Even the majority of our "ordinary" citizens are law-abiding, hardworking, relatively successful and extremely generous. THAT is the achievement of the American teacher.

You must have had a terrible experience to express such a lack of gratitude for citizens who give so much of themselves and have contributed so much to the success of our nation. Perhaps you worked closely with Michelle Rhee and caught her anti-teacher bug. I can tell you one thing for certain: your negative attitude toward teachers will not help children.

Teachers are among our heroes and most citizens know and appreciate this fact.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 8, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

It's so sad to see districts cutting back on the important aspects of education - teachers being the main one. Cutting back on teachers forces larger class sizes, which in turn results in little learning. No bus service either, meaning a lot of students won't be able to make it to school. It's just so sad to see schools cutting back like this. We need to give more money to education.

Posted by: martins5 | November 8, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Celestrun,

The bus transportation provided by the suburban school districts in the DC metro is very generous. I was a military brat and attended schools in California, Hawaii, and Fairfax County. Bus transportation was not nearly as generous in California or Hawaii, even 20+ years ago, as in Fairfax County today.

Posted by: sammann | November 8, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

@sammann
I don't live in Fairfax but I take your point. There are huge regional differences in school funding. In fact, teachers in the Midwest generally make a lot less than their collegues on the East Coast. Of course the cost of living is less as well.

I didn't mean to put down areas that don't have good bus service, I just think that is not what we should aspire to as a nation.

Posted by: celestun100 | November 8, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

For the first time in the past 46 years the school levy failed in my area. It really makes me sad when I think about the future students. Many people just don't understand that these children will be taking care of us someday. By saving a few hundred dollars now we will all pay for it in the future. The government needs to put our school back on the top of the list. I'm so tired of our representives talking about working together to better things, but every year nothing changes. I know I would rather spend a few extra hundred on taxes now then to have our schools fail our children.

Posted by: salatin2 | November 8, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

For the first time in the past 46 years the school levy failed in my area. It really makes me sad when I think about the future students. Many people just don't understand that these children will be taking care of us someday. By saving a few hundred dollars now we will all pay for it in the future. The government needs to put our school back on the top of the list. I'm so tired of our representives talking about working together to better things, but every year nothing changes. I know I would rather spend a few extra hundred on taxes now then to have our schools fail our children.

Posted by: salatin2 | November 8, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

This comment by axololt I really do not understand:

"Taking no responsibility for classroom education or blaming lack of achievement on poverty or parental inattention causes many of us to lose respect--really quickly--for teachers."

But what if research told us that the biggest predictors of low educational achievement is a) poverty and b) parental expectations.

Now that would not be an excuse for being a lousy teacher for poor kids whose parents are completely uninvolved, but it certainly also would not cause me to disrespect a teacher, simply because her students are poor and their parents are uninvolved.

Think about this in another context: Consider a doctor who was treating an obese smoker for heart disease and the patient was unwilling to lose weight or to stop smoking. Would you say to the doctor that you do not respect him/her for stating the obvious: I am unlikely to cure you of heart disease unless you lose weight and stop smoking. That's an absurdity.

Posted by: reedd1 | November 8, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

I am a regular reader of the education page, but this is my first time commenting.
My sympathies from a fellow music teacher, union member and employee of an Ohio school district near Toledo whose emergency levy also failed.

Although I completely understand the author's frustration, I believe many readers will not fully appreciate the circumstances Ohio is facing, just as I would not understand the position teachers in other states are in.

1. I did not vote for many the winners in the election, but the funding crisis in Ohio was not going to disappear with Strickland, nor will it go away with Kasich. The budget hole is bigger than any of their ideas. All schools are facing major state funding cuts next year. Period.

2. "According to the BASA analysis of the unofficial results from yesterday’s (Nov. 2) election, voters approved 113 of 214 school issues on the ballot. However, only 23 of 91 (25.28%) current expense, emergency, and income tax issues that would raise new operating money garnered favorable voter support." For new emergency monies only 6 of 44 passed.

3. TPS has additional issues complicating the lack of funding. They have lost a lot of student population so teaching staff are being laid off and brand new buildings could be closed. Some of this may have occurred even if the levy passed.

4. Why are property taxes funding the schools anyway? We can't even follow a State Supreme Court decision from 1997 in DeRolph vs. the State of Ohio.

Posted by: nwo19 | November 8, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Well said reedd1... Well said.

Linda/RT said in her earnest explanation of correct vocabulary usage: If a person wants to influence change, he would "affect change." If he wants to make change happen, he would "effect change."

To which Trace1 replied in hair-splitting fashion: to "bring about change" is to "effect change."

To which I ask: How does "make change happen" differ from "bring about change"?

And on the subject of a "job for life", something many here think teachers just do not deserve, who on earth really wants a "job for life"? Personally, I would like to live some of my life without a job. I believe it's called "retirement" (or inheritance, if you want to dream).

But of course, many here will jump on that too because right now, "retirement" is an unpopular concept... especially when discussing public employees. What a coil...

Posted by: Incidentally | November 8, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I fear that the lack of job security in the education job market will discourage future teachers, there by hindering our future generations even more. This is a disgrace as well as a danger to our future.

Posted by: jubileefury | November 9, 2010 3:04 AM | Report abuse

The situation our schools are finding themselves in right now is scary. Teachers are being cut at an alarming rate around the country and less teachers never make for a better education. The optional classes are the first to go but you need motivators to get the kids involved and interested in their school. Most teachers are teaching because they wanted to make a difference in a child's life. I don't think if you take a survey of an education class at a college, you are going to find anyone whose goal is to be a bad teacher. I have to young children and bus service is important becasue I have no idea how I could get them to school and still hold a job without it. I always vote for our school levies but sometimes that few hundred dollars makes a difference in whether I can pay my bills or not. Most people who are voting down the levies just can't afford even the little hit in this economy.I think everyone needs to quit playing the blame game and focus on working together to ensure our chldren get the quality education they deserve.

Posted by: arthurd11 | November 9, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

It is really upsetting to see a teacher be so distressed about a situation. If he finds it hopeless, I’m sure his students feel the same way.

Posted by: smitha28 | November 9, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

It is really upsetting to see a teacher be so distressed about a situation. If he finds it hopeless, I’m sure his students feel the same way.

Posted by: smitha28 | November 9, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Schools need money in order to funtion. You either pass the school levee or you pay for it later when children end up in juvi and maybe in jail and your taxes will go to paying for them in there instead of going for a good education. Toledo will find out in time that they should have passed the school levee. They need to give transportation and sports back to the students. This would also loswer the stress of the teacher that is worried about losing her job so that way she is more focused on teaching rather than losing her job.

Posted by: statonr1 | November 9, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

readd1 -- 1. The research you cite is arguable and is much criticized, but let's say the teachers are responsible for 25% of achievement for sake of this discussion. 2. Can city or federal governments do anything to force parents to be attentive -- no, not really; they would not dare, politically. 3. Erasing poverty is a worthy goal, but we can't expect or see much progress except by the decade. 4. That leaves teacher quality as a variable that can be addressed --make them better or get them out of the schools; this is eminently do-able, but there is fierce resistance from unionistas and others. 5. Upgrading teacher quality is very inviting in the District of Columbia because most teachers commenting here or anuywhere will tell you they are not, repeat not, responsible for education and all lack of attainment is due to bad parents and poverty. At the same time, they want great pay, pensions, job security, and dare I say it, respect. We only give those to the teachers who care about The Children, earn respect, and recognize that the schools are run for the The Children, not the teachers. Too many teachers voice the view that the public schools are a zero-sum game. If teachers get what they want, what students need is diminished proportionally. So, again, imnproving teacher quality, including terminating the ones who are ineffective and who may well not warrant any investment in professional development, is a very high priority here.

Posted by: axolotl | November 9, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

You need money in order to run a school. That is the bottom line. If you don't pay for their education now then you will be paying for it later by juvy and even jail costs. Another problem I hav is that this teacher can't be focused on teaching because she is worried about losing her job. You need to pass a school levee. It's pay now or pay or pay later and I would rather pay for education over paying for jail costs.

Posted by: statonr1 | November 9, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I agree, public education can only improve with better adequate funding. I graduated from a high school in Ohio that suffered from lack of levies passing; transportation was cut, teachers were laid off and after school activities were cut as well. This left my school with high class sizes (where little learning could take place), an increase in the dropout rate, decrease in graduation rate, and the loss of jobs for educators. Everyone suffered. The truth to the matter is, as previously mentioned, pay now or pay later. I’d recommend paying now.

Posted by: Greer37 | November 9, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

A sincere question for Linda/RetiredTeacher:

You said your daughters and sons are currently choosing professions. Are they choosing professions with lower annual pay but with a pension and job protection?

Or are they choosing at-will employment with higher annual pay?

And if it is the latter, why would you want the same arrangement for teaching if you lament the lack of qualified applicants?

Posted by: trace1 | November 9, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Linda,

"Our daughters are now making their own decisions and they are choosing the same professions as our sons. That's bad news for K-12."

It's bad news for k-12, but good news for the young women of this country. Duncan, Obama and other politicians are imposing crazy restraints on the teaching profession. If we can't stop them, the next step is protect the young women of this country from stepping into the mess these people are creating.

Their is a point where the abuse of teachers gets to severe and we can't stop it - we do the next best thing. We warn the young women of this country not to be teachers so they won't become political scapegoats.

Posted by: educationlover54 | November 9, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Trace1:

Most of my friends and relatives are professional people, so these are the people that I know. What I say is strictly anecdotal, but I think I'm seeing a trend:

The young men and women of the professional class are mostly entering professions such as law, medicine, engineering and business. If they work for the government (as my lawyer son does) they have strict due process rights and cannot be dismissed without being recalled by the electorate (if they are an elected official) or they work for professional corporations (hospitals, law firms) where they make about $140,000 to begin. These people are basically self employed and are deprived of their jobs only if they commit crimes. State boards make these decisions. My two daughters-in-law are college professors who are tenure track. They will receive tenure if they publish. Teaching doesn't seem to count for much.

Several cousins own companies so of course there's no one to fire them. Some friends are librarians, firefighters, social workers and police officers so they have very strict protections after six months on the job, as you know.

My other son is a scientist for a company that has defense contracts with the government. He makes big bucks and says that his job is "secure." Is he an "at will" employee? I don't know.

The only people I know who are "at will" employees are mainly service people: clerks at stores, waitresses, gardeners, nannies and maids. Is this what you want for teachers, who are required to have five years of college to get a full credential? If so, why?

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 9, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

educationlover54:

Yes, I agree with you. From what I see we're going to be facing a teacher shortage the likes of which we've never seen and "the girls" will be conspicuously absent. Good for them!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 9, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Linda R/T wrote:

"or they work for professional corporations (hospitals, law firms) where they make about $140,000 to begin. These people are basically self employed and are deprived of their jobs only if they commit crimes."

Huh? People who work for hospitals and law firms (unless they are partners) are at-will employees, sometimes with contracts that allow for dismissal on very employer-friendly terms. Your son the scientist? Almost definitely an at-will employee.

My point is this: most young people are opting for higher starting salaries over a lower salary with job protection. That's just the way it is, Linda. So why wouldn't it be good for teaching to pay qualified teachers $100,000 right out of the gate, but as any other professional employee, with job protections based on federal and local anti-discrimination laws?

Posted by: trace1 | November 10, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Trace:

Most people who work for the government have a six month probationary period before they get "permanent status." As for doctors and lawyers, I was referring to people who are basically self-employed but join clinics or law firms as partners. As far as professionals who are employees go, I can't think of a single doctor, dentist, college professor, CPA or lawyer who was "fired." Can you? In fact I know a doctor (neighbor) who was found guilty of all kinds of horrible things and he is still allowed to practice, although on probation. A teacher found guilty of selling drugs and having sex with a student would be forever barred from teaching. The standards for teachers are actually much higher than for others, as they can be dismissed for "moral turpitude." One teacher at my school had his license revoked because he had "relations" with a PTA mom, among other things. In obtaining this revocation, the superintendent used the "moral turpitude" clause.

Teachers have contracts. Many are let go at the end of the year but they are not listed as "dismissals." Among the 50% who resign during the first five years of service are those who are asked to resign. Teaching is actually the most selective of all the professions.

What you want is for teachers, but not other government workers, to hear the words, "You're fired" without any kind of due process. Well, a lot of laws will have to be changed before you see that. What your more likely to see in the next twenty years is teachers getting more salary, autonomy and job security as districts find it increasingly difficult to replace the baby boomers.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 10, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Linda/RT -

Come join us in DC. Plenty of lawyers and CPAs have been laid off. Have you been reading the newspapers?

And I am talking about young adults just out of school. They don't join law firms as partners, Linda. They join as at-will associates.

You didn't answer my question. If young people are flocking to at-will jobs with high salaries, why wouldn't they be attracted to teaching if it offered a starting salary of $100k? Isn't the goal to attract the best and the brightest?

Posted by: trace1 | November 10, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't talking about being laid-off. I was talking about people who are fired without due process.

Almost all professionals, including teachers, are "at will" employees for a period of six months (civil service) to seven years (college professors). In my state the probationary period for teachers is two years. During that time their contracts don't have to be renewed. By the way, even these people are usually designated as "resignations" which I believe is the source of the myth that teachers can't be fired.

I'm all for hiring teachers at $100,000 and think that they will be as soon as this recession is over. Remember, almost all teachers are "at will" for the first couple of years. After they get through their probationary period of two to five years (depending on state laws) they should have the same job protections as all other government workers.

You didn't answer my question: Why do you want less for teachers?

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 10, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Just like a large number of careers in this economy it is becoming clear that the competition for job openings is forcing people to move to other places, start new careers, or to have an advantage over other applicants. This is even true for teachers. There are a number of places that you can get continuing education (the one I used was http://www.dominicanu.com) but whatever you do find a place that works for you if you are a teacher and get an advanced degree.

In the meantime more is going to have to happen to educate the public that the investment in education is just as important as military budgets. A well educated populace will provide the economic strength needed to fund the military.

Posted by: samomulligan | November 11, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company