The Effect of Education on Today’s Teachers

It seems that everyone is experiencing a shortage today.

In our culture of abundance, we focus on what we don’t have.

Recently, young parents were lamenting a shortage of a particular type of formula for their babies.  Soon, there will come to light a shortage of albuterol for children with asthma.

Ironically, there seems to be an abundance of jobs.  Unfortunately, they’re not the kinds of jobs that people want, since they want to feel that their work will make a difference.

Or, the jobs require skills and abilities that today’s job seeker just doesn’t have.  I’ve heard WAY too many stories about the problems companies have experienced when their “knowledge person” either retires or leaves a critical position (and most of the times, it’s not realized as critical until after that person is replaced).

And let’s not even bring up wages and benefits.  Any figure today is too much for a business, and too little for an employee.

Schools are experiencing shortages too.  Not only regarding funding, but they’re not able to find teachers and, in some places, administrators.

Consider the plight of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when it comes to education.  Eight years ago, a new governor was elected who would not stand for the previous administration’s actions, and made promises that things would be different.

They were different, alright.  The budget negotiations that started in February and were usually hammered out by June weren’t decided upon until December.  Teacher in public schools were to the point that, even though they had contracts, schools districts didn’t have the money they rely on from the state to pay them.  Did teachers walk out?  No.  Some unions decided to do “the right thing” and continue to work without pay if necessary to get through this.

Now how are the teachers supposed to pay their bills?  Can you imagine going to your landlord or mortgage company and saying, “Hey, the union decided we’re going to work without pay, so I won’t be able to pay you this month, OK?   But I’ll make up for it somewhere down the road when the money starts flowing again.”

Interestingly, that Governor didn’t take a salary.  He donated it to local charities because he’s a wealthy business owner.  It’s noble that he was taking a stand…but that only works when everyone is supportive.  The group of people that he promised to help – the teachers – were the ones that were being one of the hardest hit during those six month.  And, because of a state tax credit program to help provide scholarships in non-public schools was nearing a critical deadline, a large number of scholarship organizations didn’t receive the funds they usually do…even though there are provisions in the law for the program to be funded.  In other words, the funds were made available once the budget was “approved,” but the deadlines for the program couldn’t be met due to the processing timeline required by law.

Six years ago, the state faced another critical projected revenue shortage, and school districts were facing even more fiscal stresses.  Remember all those people who want tax breaks from their property tax, declining property values, “tightening the belts” to curtail spending, and those folks who don’t pay state sales tax by purchasing goods and services online all mean less and less revenue coming into the state.  Yet, teachers are still expected to keep up on their certifications which they must pay for out of their own pockets, spend additional hours to bring achievement scores to acceptable levels and deal with all the issues, IEPs and irresponsible parenting decisions (more about that in an upcoming article).  And what was state’s response?  “We’re going to take away your sick days.”

Sure, who needs sick days, right?  Teachers get two months off, which is more than the average worker gets.   At that time, 40% of children at a school in Central Pennsylvania were absent because of illness.  If that many students were out, you can be sure there were a number of sick kids who came to school, and shared their airborne viruses with their teachers and other students…and that was before COVID-19!

It’s helpful to always remember the words of H. L. Mencken:

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.

We all received an education in the validity of that statement regarding actions that were taken to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus when it hit full force in 2020.  The situation is complex, with a commitment to hygiene, social distancing and quarantining.  And knowing how kids came to school while they were sick and infected others, the suspension of classes in schools as well as the minimum class days waiver by states are prudent actions.

As predicted, the interesting part was the systemic ramifications “school from home” placed on parents, and how students lost ground on their expected achievement levels, creating yet another shortage.