Despite the fact that the teachers here in Louisiana are some of the nation’s lowest paid, there have been surprisingly few job actions over the years. Consequently, I was very surprised and taken aback by the negative public criticism which was doled on quite thickly over a recent rally we had at the state capitol in support of an education funding proposal being considered by the legislature. After two days of this barrage, I was motivated to write an e-mail to one of our local radio talk show hosts who also happens to be an acquaintance of mine. The text of the letter follows:
I've known you for a while now (we've ridden motorcycles together on a few occasions) and I've also followed you around the radio dial through some career changes over the years. So it was with more than a little consternation that I reached for the "off" button on my radio after hearing you and Rob, for a second morning, rake the teachers over the rally in Baton Rouge yesterday.
Bo, you and Rob of all people should know that "squeaky wheel gets the grease" is not just an old saying in Louisiana, it's the way business is done here. Louisiana teachers have been playing nice for years and years now, and we've listened to practically every politician who runs for office say that they support better education and higher pay for teachers. But the result is we are among the lowest paid educators in the nation. Coincidentally, we also have one of the worst educational systems in the country. And if you don't think there is a correlation, find the states with the best educational systems and check their teacher pay rates. There's another old saying that comes into play here: "You get what you pay for."
I heard a couple of comments yesterday from parents calling the station, angry because there was no one to babysit their kids, opining that the teachers "Aren't acting very professionally." My reply to that is that they aren't being paid very professionally either. Wouldn't it be nice if the state would come up with enough money to hire someone who could actually teach their kids something as well as babysit them? Why isn't this anger directed at the politicians who made us feel like this drastic action was the only way we could get anyone's attention.
To be a teacher, one has to do a minimum of about 5 years of college, take (and pass) at least two batteries of the National Teachers Examination, and satisfy a number of ongoing requirements of the NCLB act to maintain what is described as "highly qualified" status in order to be eligible to teach. I have no problem with these requirements and in fact think they should be even higher. But the thing is, you can't go down to a used car lot and pick yourself up a sweet deal on a '92 VW Beetle and then place a minimum top speed requirement of 130 mph on it. If your standards are going to be that high, you'd better be prepared to thin your wallet down a good bit more in the process. Fact is Bo, a growing number of the real teaching professionals have already gone somewhere else where they can make decent money.
Even the present proposal before the legislature, which is far more generous than anything proposed in a very long time, will (if passed) only bring us up to the much bandied about "southern average." And if average schools are what your after, then I guess that's a pretty good mark to shoot for. One thing for sure though Bo, you'll never build outstanding schools on the shoulders of bargain-basement teachers.
Well anyway, there's a lot more I could say and if you're interested get back to me and we can discuss it. But, if I'm going to have anything to listen to now on my way to work in the mornings I'd better get to figuring out what I need to beef up my CD collection.