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Good Teachers Deserve $100,000 Salaries

Education:Teaching is considered one of the most important professions but we don't back that up with pay.

November 16, 1998|BRIAN CROSBY | Brian Crosby is chairman of Hoover High School's English Department and a mentor teacher for the Glendale Unified School District

Public schoolteachers should earn six-figure salaries.

Until America is willing to pay good teachers what they are worth, many of the best and brightest college graduates will continue to choose careers such as engineering and computer animation, where 22-year-olds can earn starting salaries of $40,000--a salary teachers in large metropolitan areas earn only after 10 years of work.

More money needs to be offered to teachers in order to enlarge the applicant pool, thereby increasing the chances of bringing more talented people into the profession. Who can account for the untold number of people who opted for higher paying careers and who might be performing exceptionally for our children but who simply refuse to accept such low salaries for their talents?

Is it so shocking for a teacher to earn $100,000? Imagine the following job conditions:

* taking paperwork home regularly without pay;

* getting one 10-minute break and one 30-minute lunch during the day;

* buying supplies and making photocopies at your own expense;

* attending meetings several times a month outside the work day;

* renewing credentials every five years by attending classes and seminars in the evenings and on weekends.

How much money is it all worth?

While considered one of the most important jobs, teachers are woefully underpaid when compared to doctors, attorneys and other professionals. In Los Angeles, where the median price of a two bedroom/one bath house is $201,000, a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree and two years of credential work makes about $32,000, yet can aspire to earn no more than $64,000--regardless of the added years of higher education or experience. Unlike other jobs, teachers' salary charts reflect very few future raises after the first decade of service, providing raises only twice after the first 12 years of employment, usually at the 18- and 22-year marks.

Think of the role the teacher plays, not just in the pure education of subject matter but also in the socialization of people, honing skills that later translate into work habits, sometimes acting as counselor or even parent.

Yet the growing outcry from the private sector toward public schools is to train the students better. Well then, attract better teachers. Stop throwing tax dollars at programs to teach phonics or grants to wire schools for the Internet. The most important component in the classroom to make a true impact on the student is not the 300-megahertz Pentium II computer. It is the teacher.

Salaries for other public employees are less harshly criticized. How often do we read of city officials rationalizing six-figure salaries in their municipality by saying that "we have to remain competitive" or "we have to attract the best people." Why doesn't this logic apply to teachers?

Good teachers enjoy working with young people despite the salary and constant public scrutiny. It seems that the public pins its hopes on the lofty ideal that there are still people out there willing to sacrifice money and respect in order to educate the future of our country.

While throwing money at a problem will not guarantee success, paying for talented people to seriously consider education as a viable alternative is a necessity for the future of public education. You want a highly educated and trained work force? Pay for it. You want this country to be a formidable global economic competitor? It's going to cost.

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