Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Teachers
Will these poll results cause a policy shift?
Phi Delta Kappa (PDK), a professional society for educators, released its annual poll focused on public attitudes toward public education. While the poll found that respondents generally have a favorable view of their local schools, the results also point to a key area of concern.
Just 37% of respondents in the national, random-sample survey would want a child of theirs to become a public school teacher in their community. That’s fewer than have said so in a similar question asked 13 times in PDK polls since 1969. It compares with 46% in 2018, a high of 75% in 1969, and a long-term average of 60%.
This should be of concern. Especially in an era where the idea of a “teacher shortage” is gaining traction. That is, districts report struggling to find teachers and schools of education report a dwindling number of students.
Of the results, PDK said:
Another potentially more alarming concern is the dwindling interest among parents in having their children become public school teachers in their community. In 2018, for the first time, a majority (54%) of adults said they would not want a child of theirs to become a public school teacher. This year, the percentage has risen to a record high of 62%. No single reason for this growing disinterest stands out — more than 20% alike cited poor pay, the demands and stress of the job and lack of respect.
These three - pay, stress, respect - are key issues driving the overall value proposition for teachers.
The question, of course, is will these results and the virtually non-stop reporting around a teacher shortage have any impact on public policy? That is, will the results spur a renewed investment in public schools and a renewed emphasis on providing excellent resources for students and teachers? Or will the results simply serve to further pave the way for private interests to get their hands on public school dollars?
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Teacher Wage Penalty Persists
Despite all the rhetoric from Tennessee policymakers about funds for schools and teacher salaries, Tennessee teachers continue to experience a “wage gap.” That is, teachers in Tennessee earn nearly 24% less than similarly educated peers.
The Economic Policy Institute has once again published its analysis of teacher pay relative to the pay of similar professionals and found that at a national level, the wage gap is 23.5%. In Tennessee, that gap is 23.8%. As EPI notes, in 28 states, the gap is greater than 20%. Yes, even when you add the benefits package (typically more generous than in other jobs), the penalty is still well above 10%.
What does this mean, though?
Well, all those stories about a teacher shortage start to make sense. Whether there are more actual vacancies this year than in years past (as seems to be the case in some districts), the issue is being talked about more seriously this year.
The numbers from EPI indicate that the value proposition for teachers just isn’t that great. Combine that with heated political rhetoric about “groomer teachers” and book banning, and you may begin to understand why there aren’t as many qualified educators available and eager to fill all the vacancies.
There it is again - this idea that the value proposition for teaching is, well, not so good.
As the PDK poll indicates, not just teachers - but the public in general - perceives that the value proposition (pay, respect, stress) is simply not worth encouraging kids to become teachers.
Yes, pay is a big factor - and it should be improved. The gap should be erased, which would mean boosting teacher pay by around 15-20% (considering the benefits benefit).
That would make the job financially comparable to other jobs requiring similar training.
Then, of course, there are issues around resources for learning, facilities, support, and respect. To avert a crisis, policymakers should be exploring ways to improve all of these.