Readers Mark Williams and J. Minore took exception to my remark in a recent article about the "fat salaries" local teachers receive. I think their comments merit a follow-up article from me.
The problem with public education is not a shortage of funds. Of course, current cutbacks on state funding is making it harder to maintain pricey teaching staffs, but that assumes that we should continue increasing the salaries and benefits of public school teachers. There is absolutely no evidence that paying teachers more has resulted in better educated students. The principal argument for paying teachers high salaries and benefits doesn't wash. Higher compensation has not attracted a higher caliber of professional. All that has happened over the past forty years as teacher compensation has exploded under the Michigan Education Association monopoly has been to foster careerism among teachers.
(I have yet to see anyone explain why only MEA teachers are allowed to bid on public school teaching contracts.)
Yes, there are plenty of dedicated teachers in our public schools today who would be there regardless of the pay because they love the job. However, we had more of those souls in the past. Indeed, some of the best teachers I had in my thirteen years attending Grand Rapids public schools were not careerists. They were teachers as a stop along the way to other careers. We need more of those folks in our public schools. We also need more people who work in the real world and can teach our kids part-time. That would improve the caliber of instruction and probably halve the cost of the teaching staffs.
All that said, the fundamental cause of poor student performance is a lack of parental motivation and guidance. A good teacher may be able to mitigate the adverse effects of poor parenting, but he cannot solve it. Paying him more isn't going to fix that problem one bit. So I suggest that everyone getting paid by the public school system stop making false promises to taxpayers that with a little more money they will improve the quality of students in their charge.