The Effect of Education on Today’s Teachers

It seems that everyone is experiencing a shortage today.  In our culture of abundance (and if you don’t believe that, walk into any grocery or pharmacy today and rather than looking for something, take a moment to realize just how much is around you), we focus on what we don’t have.  Job seekers don’t have the experience that employers are looking for.  Employers don’t have positions that will allow people to feel that their work will make a difference.  And let’s not even bring up wages and benefits.  Any figure today is too much for a business, and too little for an employee.

Schools are experiencing shortages too.  Not only regarding funding, but they’re not able to find substitute teachers:

Consider the plight of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when it comes to education.  Two years ago, a new governor was elected who would not stand for the previous administration’s actions, and made promises that things would be different.  They were different, alright.  The budget negotiations that started in February and were usually hammered out by June weren’t decided upon until December.  Teacher in public schools were to the point that, even though they had contracts, schools districts didn’t have the money they rely on from the state to pay them.  Did teachers walk out?  No.  Some unions decided to do “the right thing” and continue to work without pay if necessary to get through this.

That’s nice.  Now how are the teachers supposed to pay their bills?  Can you imagine going to your landlord or mortgage company and saying, “Hey, the union decided we’re going to work without pay, so I won’t be able to pay you this month, OK?   But I’ll make up for it somewhere down the road when the money starts flowing again.”

Interestingly, the Governor doesn’t take a salary.  He donates it to local charities because he’s a wealthy business owner.  Yet, his “take my ball and go home” attitude almost brought Pennsylvania to a standstill.  It’s noble that he was taking a stand…but that only works when everyone is supportive.  The group of people that he promised to help – the teachers – were the ones that were being one of the hardest hit during those six month.  And, because of a state tax credit program to help provide scholarships in non-public schools was nearing a critical deadline, a large number of scholarship organizations didn’t receive the funds they usually do…even though there are provisions in the law for the program to be funded.  In other words, the funds were made available once the budget was “approved,” but the deadlines for the program couldn’t be met due to the processing timeline required by law.

Now, two years later, the state is facing another critical projected revenue shortage, and school districts are facing even more fiscal stresses.  Remember all those people who want tax breaks from their property tax, declining property values, “tightening the belts” to curtail spending, and those folks who don’t pay state sales tax by purchasing goods and services online all mean less and less revenue coming into the state.  Yet, teachers are still expected to keep up on their certifications which they must pay for out of their own pockets, spend additional hours to bring achievement scores to acceptable levels and deal with all the issues, IEPs and irresponsible parenting decisions (more about that in an upcoming article).  And what’s the state’s response?

“We’re going to take away your sick days.”

Sure, who needs sick days, right?  Teachers get two months off, which is more than the average worker gets, so that should be enough for them.  Two months ago, 40% of children at a school in Central Pennsylvania were absent because of illness.  If that many students were out, you can be sure there were a number of sick kids who came to school, and shared their airborne viruses with their teachers.  If you read the article about how difficult it is to find substitute teachers, it seems that the state legislature has found a way to handle three problems at once:

  • Substitute teachers are necessary only when a teacher calls off, and the teacher still gets paid for the day;
  • We can’t find substitute teachers to fill-in for teachers when they call off due to illness; and
  • We need to find ways to cut the budget

From a logical perspective, eliminating teacher sick days solves all three problems.  Not being able to call off sick means the school doesn’t need to find a substitute, and since substitutes don’t have to be paid, and the office doesn’t have to expend time and energy seeking substitutes, it seems like an effective solution.

But remember the words of H. L. Mencken:

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.




Posted in edu-cat-ion.