Monday, January 12, 2009

Elvis vs. the "Reformers"

In yesterday's New York Times, columnist Tom Friedman states we may attract new and high quality teachers by offering them a tax break. Apparently Mr. Friedman feels that not only real estate moguls, sports team owners, banks and car companies ought to be well-paid by the government. And as someone with a kid to put through school (a kid who's repeatedly expressed a desire to be a teacher) I can think of little to say but Elvis' old standby, "Thank you, thank you very much."

One of the smartest stimulus moves we could make would be to eliminate federal income taxes on all public schoolteachers so more talented people would choose these careers. I’d also double the salaries of all highly qualified math and science teachers, staple green cards to the diplomas of foreign students who graduate from any U.S. university in math or science — instead of subsidizing their educations and then sending them home — and offer full scholarships to needy students who want to go to a public university or community college for the next four years.

I'd only point out that ESL teachers are in short supply as well. The grinches over at The Quick and the Ed (who don't appear to have actually read Friedman's article) say it's too expensive on the one hand, and on the other might not give beginning single teachers with no deductions a large enough break (Apparently the prospect of an extra 3500 bucks a year would mean nothing to new teachers). They clamor for unproven "reforms" like merit pay, and then complain it wouldn't reward teachers in shortage areas. In fact, as you can plainly see, Mr. Friedman dramatically proposes to double the salaries in shortage areas.

It's unfortunate that many "reformers" choke when faced with things that would really help kids (like reasonable class sizes), and haven't yet heard about the rampant and unconscionable overcrowding that infects their pet projects (like New York City). On the brighter side, I was really moved by one of the comments from a blogger known as Downes:

Indeed, I would suggest that one of the major deterrents to high quality people considering a teaching career is the barrage of postings, just like this one, that attack existing teachers, teacher unions, existing contracts, and the rest. Nobody wants to work under such conditions.

Amen, Mr. Downes. The endless vilification of teachers by those who want to kill unions and institute the same sort of "reforms" that brought us today's financial woes are precisely what's wrong with education today. Let's make our schools better by giving our kids good teachers, reasonable class sizes, and decent facilities.

And let's make teaching the sort of job we can encourage our kids to take when they grow up.
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