Mississippi politicians are currently debating an increase in salary for educators in the state. Is this because they see the value in education? Is it due to a desire to more adequately compensate those who are educating the future workforce of the state? Or is it simply because they want to attract more qualified employees?
No, instead it is a push to not be "next to last" in yet another area nationwide.
A beginning teacher in the state of Mississippi can expect to pay more than $50,000 (trends.collegeboard.org) and invest four years of his/her time for an education which will enable them to earn $30,900 as a beginning salary. Yes, this salary will qualify him/her to also draw food stamps if he/she is a single parent, but I'm sure the best and brightest will be able to see past that small issue and forgo a career in engineering or medicine.
This same professional can expect to work 40 hours a week delivering instruction and supervising the safety and well-being of your most valuable assets. They will also work an average of 10 hours a week planning for instruction, researching online for added resources, attending professional development courses and conferencing with parents and guardians at times which meet their work schedules. And the majority of my highly qualified staff considers this the minimum.
The majority of my highly qualified staff also focuses on teaching children to think for themselves and demonstrate respect for self and others versus simply preparing for a standardized annual test, but that is an entirely different subject for an entirely different day.
Are there substandard professionals in the field? Of course there are. Education is no different than any other field occupied by errant humans. You have excellent, dedicated and passionate physicians and then you have those who simply see patients. However, low pay scales are not the answer if you desire to weed out the dispassionate. No, those with low drive will always outlast in a race of endurance.
If you desire to see education change, then there must be a paradigm shift. Administration should be given more leeway when evaluating staffing choices, parents should be more accountable in the process of education and, no, salaries should not be debated when presently at poverty level.
Do I understand, however, that one "cannot get blood out of turnip"? Of course I do. To quote Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, "Committing to $180 million in additional annual expenditures may not be prudent given the current state of the economy."
But to further quote him: Reeves said he was glad the proposal contains benchmarks but said, "I would very much prefer merit benchmarks focused on student achievement than on easily achievable benchmarks for teachers for showing up to work, joining the Rotary Club and volunteering to sponsor an extracurricular activity."
Well, I propose that politicians at the state level be held to the same standard. Let's pay them based on state progress. Let's cease and desist paying for them just "showing up at work and joining the Rotary Club." What have they done that is measurable? What have they done that deserves merit pay?
What an insult to our education system in this state; what an insult to our children.
Charlene McCaghren Woodham of Ocean Springs is assistant principal at St. Martin Upper Elementary School. She describes herself as "a lifetime educator and current administrator who should have gone to law school instead."