Thursday, March 02, 2006

Surplus, eh?

I find it interesting that we here in the state of Utah have a huge budget surplus. This guy calls it stealing and says that it's against the fifth amendment. I have to agree with that, but I can't say that just writing a check to everybody is the best way to handle the situation.

I have for too long been a silent supporter of teacher's rights, but that time has come to a close. This is a great opportunity for us to improve the educational system. Utah is among the biggest cheapskates when it comes to paying our teachers. Experienced teachers earn only $35,000 to $40,000 per year, so it's no wonder we are heading for a shortage of teachers. Obviously people who want to be teachers do so for the love of the game, so to speak. They know that they won't make money; but increasingly, people that would go into teaching are deterred from it because you can't live on the salary. It happens that I find myself in that category. Down at the bottom it says my name is Tom (Future ME), the ME stands for Mechanical Engineer. Engineers make good money, much more than teachers, but if it weren't for that I would love to be a teacher.

You can see where I'm going with this. It's shameful that Utah can have a huge budget surplus and still have some of the lowest paid teachers in the US. I don't understand how lawmakers can feel good about the state of the Utah educational system.

The first improvement would be to raise teachers salaries across the board. This would have two major consequences: teachers would be able to afford to live in their communities and better minds would be attracted to teaching positions. As it stands, the US pays their teachers a little less than the national average income. According to this article, only a handful of nations studied by the Organization for Economic Coopreration And Development pay teachers less than the national average. There is no excuse for a world superpower to treat their teachers this way.

Paying teachers more would also allow us to be more selective with them. Bad teachers are a bane on the educational system. There are more of them than we would like to admit, they usually don't know who they are, or they are not being honest with themselves. Good teachers, on the other hand, have a chance to influence the lives of the young people that come through their classrooms in a way that nobody else can. High school, in particular is a time when young people are trying to define themselves and therefore it is of paramount importance that positive influences be present. High schools are very hostile environment for teenagers, even for the popular kids, and teachers fill the adult roles in these environments. When they can develop relationships with their students they find themselves in the unique position to offer guidance in a way that even parents usually can't. Finding good teachers with strong minds is important to our future.

Reform has to happen one way or another. Society will improve if teachers have the means they need to be great teachers. Lets give it to them.