Thursday, March 10, 2011

DEBATE: Should We Pay Teachers More Or Less?

There is an active debate going on about teaching salaries.

Matt Mille, writing in the Washingtoin Post, said:
The one thing I know for sure, however, is this: The future of the country depends on the public-sector workers known as teachers. That's because unless we dramatically improve our educational performance, America's standard of living will be at risk. 
The second thing I know for sure is that we'll never attract the kind of talented young people we need to the teaching profession unless it pays far more than it does today. With starting teacher salaries averaging $39,000 nationally, and rising to an average maximum of $67,000, it's no surprise that we draw teachers from the bottom two-thirds of the college class; for schools in poor neighborhoods, teachers come largely from the bottom third. We're the only leading nation that thinks it can stay a leading nation with a "strategy" of recruiting mediocre students and praying they'll prove excellent teachers. 
And I know one more thing - which is as inconvenient for me to acknowledge as it should be for others who've criticized archaic teacher union practices in the United States. The highest-performing school systems in the world - in places such as Finland, Singapore and South Korea - all have strong teachers unions. Anyone serious about improving American schooling has to reckon with this paradox: Unions here are often obstacles to needed reform, even as the world's best systems work hand in glove with their unions to continually improve their performance.
Many states around the country are trying to balance their budgets by making cuts to their education budgets. I thought it would be useful to include some data about what the average teacher salaries in the United States and how American primary school teacher salaries compare to those around the world.

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