Wanna Move to Elkhart, Indiana?
Plus, an update on the Columbus strike situation
While there is no shortage of adults with proper teaching credentials, there is an insufficient number of those adults willing to accept teaching jobs given the current value proposition.
This has led to a range of stopgap measures, including bonuses and incentives for retired teachers to return to the classroom. While this may be akin to kicking the can down the road, it does have the effect of giving students qualified, experienced educators. If they’ll take the incentives.
A recent story out of Elkhart, Indiana notes that district has realigned sub pay in order to draw retired Indiana educators to Elkhart classrooms.
The Elkhart Community Schools Board of School Trustees voted Tuesday to double the pay for substitute teachers who are retired Indiana teachers.
The previous rate of pay for retired teachers in the school corporation was $145 for a full day and $75 for a half day.
Starting Wednesday, the new rate of pay is $350 for a full day and $175 for a half day.
“Across the nation, school districts are facing teacher shortages and looking for qualified substitute teachers to provide a high level of education for students,” said Maggie Lozano, director of human resources, Elkhart Community Schools. “Retired teachers bring years of classroom and teaching experience to ECS, which is invaluable to our students. With a limited pool of retired teachers available to substitute in our classrooms, we want to ensure we are placing these retired educators whenever possible. Improving the rate of pay helps the district attract retired teachers who are still called to make a difference in the lives of students.”
That’s a pretty big raise in pay. But it likely is simply a proper alignment of pay with the responsibilities of teaching. In other words, prior to this adjustment, the school system was getting a bargain if anyone was accepting their paltry sum to take on teaching duties.
Of course, stories out of Georgia and Iowa suggest that even boosts in pay aren’t completely filling the gap between teaching needs and those willing to accept the jobs.
Teachers at Des Moines Public Schools who had previously intended to retire but are now willing to work for an additional year are eligible for a bonus of $50,000 if they do so.
The system has 95 vacancies and just under 60 retired teachers willing to take the cash in exchange for one more year of service. To be clear, these teachers would be paid their salary PLUS $50,000 to teach just one more year.
House Bill 385, signed into law earlier this year, allows certain retired teachers to return to the classroom while continuing to collect their full pension and full-time pay.
According to the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia, more than 56,000 retirees qualify but less than 100 have contacted the system about returning.
Why aren’t they flocking back?
Here, I’ll cite again the writing of Nashville education blogger TC Weber:
Most of the focus for attrition has been placed on salaries, and while wages have been chronically low for all too long, it ain’t all about money. Look at it this way, if I’m paying you $100 dollars a day to repeatedly beat you with a baseball bat, you are going to tire of it quickly. So then when you are about ready to quit, I raise the rate to $1000. You look at the money and try to convince yourself that for that kind of money you could handle getting beat with a bat all day. But, after a little while, it’ll start to sink in, you don’t want to get hit with a bat for any amount of money. That’s where we live with teachers.
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The story I wrote recently about what’s happening in Columbus gets to TC’s point. The conditions are now so untenable that a LOT has to change - including money - to improve the value proposition such that teachers want to flock to classrooms.
You may recall that teachers in Columbus voted to give notice that they may strike due to an impasse in negotiations with the school board.
Here’s what teachers in Columbus want:
Fuentes said the union is asking for smaller class sizes; full-time art, music and physical education teachers; functioning heating and cooling systems in schools; giving teachers more planning time; a cap on the number of class periods in the day; and "other working conditions that recruit and retain the best educators for our students."
So far, there’s been no movement from the school board on these issues.
The teachers want (among other things) functioning heat and air in the buildings students attend each day for school.
Since they haven’t gotten a satisfactory response from the school board yet, they’ve now registered their intent to strike as soon as August 24th, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Columbus City Schools announced plans Thursday for remote learning using non-union substitute teachers if the Columbus Education Association follows through on its formal notice to the State Employment Relations Board to strike if it does not reach a new contract agreement before school starts Aug. 24.
If the CEA does set up picket lines, the district will move to “synchronous and asynchronous remote learning” and the district’s buildings will be closed to students and community members, according to information on a district webpage Superintendent Talisa Dixon sent to district families Thursday afternoon.
Teachers are tired of being told to wait - to wait for a raise, to wait for heat and air in buildings, to wait for the resources they need to educate kids, to wait for relief from excessive testing requirements.
Too often, politicians have said to teachers, “You knew the deal when you signed up, if you don’t like it, you can leave.” Now, teachers are leaving. Politicians are responding with big cash payments. And teachers are saying, “that’s nice, but show me you’re listening.”
The example of Columbus seems to indicate that policymakers are still a long way from getting the message.