Higher teacher pay will bring quality education

By Lindy Almony | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Opinion G logoAmericans speak often about investing in the future with K-12 education. President Barack Obama said during a speech in February that, “Education is an investment that we need to win the future.”

How much, though, do we really invest in education in this country? And how much does the success of our education programs depend on the teachers?

Nationwide, 47 percent of K-12 teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes. Many of the higher performing students are lured into more profitable careers. Three countries renowned for their educational performance—Singapore, South Korea and Finland—draw teachers from the top third of their colleges and pay them well. In South Korea and Singapore, teachers earn more than lawyers and engineers.

The Program for International Student Assessment report, which compares education systems in more than 50 countries, ranked American students 15th in reading, 19th in science and 27th in math.

In America, if we are concerned about education, these statistics should serve as an incentive to pay our teachers more, not less.

Paying teachers less is exactly what Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) has proposed in his recently released budget for the next fiscal year.  Scott proposed $1.75 billion in cuts to education. This would result in $2,335 a year pay cut for the average teacher, according to The Palm Beach Post.   Part of this plan is a merit pay bill- a statewide teacher evaluation and merit pay system based on students’ performance on standardized tests. This merit pay bill would also do away with tenure for teachers hired after July 1, 2011.

If this bill passes, not only would it jeopardize the jobs of great teachers, it would also certainly deter potential teachers from entering the field.

Exceptional student education teacher Natalie Giacosa said it well about Scott. “He’s a businessman, so he sees it as a business. You cannot see education as a business. You simply cannot.”

Higher saleries would be an incentive for brighter men and women to become teachers. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof said, “If we want to compete with other countries, and chip away at poverty across America, then we need to pay teachers more so as to attract better people into the profession.”

A study by Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University found that an excellent teacher raises each student’s lifetime earnings by $20,000. An excellent teacher is defined being one standard deviation better than average, or better than 84 percent of teachers. In a class of 20 students, that is an extra $400,000, compared with a teacher who is just average.

Most people agree that education is the key to a successful future. To attract better candidates into the profession, we must pay teachers more. Although budgetary problems are difficult to solve, statistics show that educational problems are not.

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