The public school year 2007-08 is upon us, and some children will start their classes with temporary teachers, because some districts don't have enough teachers. Here's what we need to do.
1. Raise Teacher Salaries
The only reason that Washington County has enough teachers is because it hired 80% of all applicants for open teaching positions. This is very likely an indicator that the quality of education in Washington County will suffer. Like I've said before, you get what you pay for so you should pay for what you want. The Deseret News article linked to above includes a graphic indicating that at about $26,500, Utah is 7th of 8 western states in teacher salaries. Only 15% of teachers come from outside Utah, while a clear indicator that a lot of Utah teachers are leaving Utah is that surrounding states have as many as 60% of their teachers coming from out of state.
Interestingly, the article notes that Granite School District, at least partially as a result of the increase in education funding by the legislature last year, will be able to begin their new teachers at about $30,000. I'm not sure if this is the state average, or if some other factor is at work here. One commenter to the Deseret News article posits an opinion why:
We have too much adminstrative expenses in our Public School System, or too many chiefs, with too much pay. Then you would have the funds to pay the teachers a decent wage.
2. Support Education Vouchers
And I'm suggesting everyone, not just the grossly over-zealous, New York-based Parents for Choice in Education! Everyone should support vouchers. Here's why. Deseret News reports
Utah's student enrollment is expected to grow from 540,000 to more than 680,000 students by 2014. At the same time, Utah will need 44,000 new teachers, according to a Utah Educator Supply and Demand study by Utah State University.
Yet fewer people want to become teachers. The number of new teachers graduating from Utah colleges and universities dropped 13 percent between 2003 and 2006, the Utah Foundation reports.
There is very little educational choice in Utah. When there is more choice, there is more competition. When there is more competition, there is more excellence. When there is more excellence, teacher salaries can't help but go up, in public as well as private schools. That's a good thing for everyone.
One way to reduce the steamrolling tide of 140,000 new school children is to diversify education in Utah. It's time for the public education system in Utah to ask for help. It can't possibly field 44,000 new teachers in the next 7 years all by itself. There is no shame in admitting this. Rather, there is actually a great deal of nobility in admitting that there are various good ways to "skin a cat", and various good ways to educate a child.
The legislature went a fair distance last year in encouraging teachers to stay in Utah by issuing a substantial pay increase. It appears by the statistics, however, that it wasn't quite enough. Wee'll get the kind of education for our children that we want by paying the right kind of prices. We're a lot closer, but we're still not there.
It would show a great volume of good faith if at the same time the Utah public education establishment were to encourage alternate and equally good forms of education in Utah. Working together we can ensure that all of our children receive a good education, and not just most of them.
So let's encourage our legislators this year to continue toward the goal of providing adequate compensation for public school teachers. And at the same time, let's all vote for education vouchers in November.