Saturday, March 19, 2005

Education In the U.S.

It is hard to exaggerate the problems in the U.S. which can be directly attributed to the decline in our public school system. Over the past half-century, the number of pupils in U.S. schools grew by about 50% while the number of teachers nearly tripled. Spending per pupil also tripled. If the teaching corps had simply kept pace with enrollment, school budgets grew as they did, and nothing else changed, the average teacher would earn nearly $100,000 plus generous benefits and a completely different caliber of student would be attracted to teaching. Class sizes would be some larger--about the size as when I was in school. There would be fewer specialists and supervisors. So, we have basically invested in more rather than better teachers. We now draw people from the lower ranks of our lesser universities. Thus, it is no surprise that we have shortages in key subjects such as science and math. It is hard to keep fully staffed when some of the locales aren't too enticing and in the sciences or math well qualified individuals can earn big bucks elsewhere.
The push for increased numbers of teachers comes from several sources. The public was sold on the concept of small class sizes when there is scant evidence that this is overridingly important. The unions, of course, want large numbers of dues paying members to represent. Departments of Education want large numbers of students to train.
So, we wind up paying lots of money for schooling, most for teachers salaries, that depends on the knowledge, skills and commitment of teachers who don't earn very much and can't see that they ever will. On top of that we restrict entry to persons "certified" by state bureaucrats after passing through mostly monopolistic training programs that add little value. What could be more insane than erecting daunting barriers of entry to an ill-paid vocation? How about making the pay mediocre for poor, good, and super teachers? We pay no more to those who take on tough assignments in tough schools than we do those in up-scale neighborhoods. In fact, the pay is usually less.
I'll add more to this sorry saga in coming days.

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