Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister released a statement yesterday addressing that state’s teacher shortage:
“The OSSBA survey confirms what we have all suspected, that the teacher shortage has worsened significantly. The shortage has meant the elimination of teaching positions, increased class sizes and the slashing of class offerings. We are shortchanging our schoolchildren each day we fail to take bold action.”
What might bold action look like?
Well, for one, it would involve improving the value proposition for teachers. Sure, teachers often place money at the low end of a list improvements they’d make to the profession. But the value proposition goes beyond simply financial incentives, it includes the support and professional respect teachers deserve.
Teaching has never been a particularly lucrative profession. But, teachers used to have the respect of their communities and enjoy popular support in society.
Now, teachers are the scapegoats for social ills of all sorts. They are asked to solve more problems with fewer resources, and their pay is still far too low. For all the talk from “reformers” on the need to bring the market to public education, the one thing they don’t want to bring is the law of supply and demand.
Here’s how that might work: Raise starting pay for teachers. Improve lifetime earnings for teachers. While money isn’t everything, it is one important tool in recruiting teachers and in establishing teaching as a desirable profession.
I’ve also heard from individuals at times that they appreciate their child’s teacher(s). That’s great, and it’s wonderful to let them know. But, those teachers can’t buy groceries with gratitude.
Until communities advocate for and demand better pay and more resources for teachers and schools, we’ll continue to see stories like this one out of Oklahoma.
As a nation, we can and must do better. Our communities and our children deserve it.
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