As I have followed the discussion of education “reform” in our state, it has seemed to me that too much of the discussion about the worsening teacher shortage has focused on teacher pay. Undoubtedly, pay is a huge issue. But it is not the only issue.
I’ve talked to a lot of teachers from around the state over the past year. These conversations paint a much more complex picture. The recurring themes I have heard also include the need for lower class sizes, the need for time to plan and collaborate with colleagues, the need for resources to assist struggling learners, the need for behavioral health specialists and effective alternative programs, the misuse of standardized tests, inadequate supply budgets, substandard facilities, and endless and unproductive red tape from Columbia, just to name a few areas.
It’s not just about pay. It’s also about working conditions and professional respect. The political and education leaders of our state have turned our children into faceless data points, our schools into factories, and our teachers into assembly line workers. Until this culture is changed, we will continue to lose teachers and wring our hands about the teacher shortage.
For whatever reason, our state leaders continue to cling to the idea that a 4 percent raise after pretty much ignoring teacher pay for 10 years will fix everything. It won’t.
Dr. Frank E. Morgan, Camden