DAVID ROSMAN: Missouri legislators should support teachers, not scare them off

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:33 a.m. CDT, Friday, April 20, 2012

OK, I am confused here. The men and women under the Gray Dome in Jefferson City have taken the windfall from the $600 quatrillion Power Ball sales and shored up a portion of the public education budget. Whoo Hoo!

Yet these are the same men and women, at least those who sit to the right, who wish to do away with teachers because they might be older, have seniority and have higher salaries. Salaries, by the way, that do not reflect the exceptionally hard job they have working with teenagers who would rather be sleeping, playing and being kids. Or teens who see no future for themselves because they are "just not good enough." Or who have little, if any, family support for whatever reason and just do not care.

For those of you who do not teach, would you like to trade places with a middle, junior high or high school teacher, let's say for a week? How about if the pay was doubled? Tripled? No? Even if you were charged with the future of this country?

What have our Gray Dome legislators done now to light the ire of our teachers, parents and, of course, me?

SB 806. What makes this bill so bad?

First, the bill requires a teacher to be on the job for 10 years instead of five to achieve tenure.

Second, if there is a reduction of the teacher work force, seniority cannot be used to determine who stays and who goes. Meaning, even with tenure, a good teacher can still be out of a job for other reasons – such as making too much money.

Third, if there is a reduction of the non-certified work force, seniority cannot be used as a criterion to determine who stays and who goes.

Simply put, this bill focuses on killing the unions representing those who are responsible to educate our kids.

This is more than a simple disconnect between the needs to improve our public school system and punishing those who educate.

This from the men and women who call themselves "patriots" and say they believe in American exceptionalism and family values, while rejecting the idea of public education. Or who want to take funds needed for a public education and give it to religious schools? Or requiring public schools to meet testing criteria that private schools do not.

The same men and women who now want to destroy what made America exceptional in the first place – our public education system. Horace Mann, who showed the "integral relationship between education, freedom and Republican government," is rolling in his grave.

Take SB 806 and add some of the lowest teacher salaries in the country. Add the lack of support from the conservative Christian and tea party movements. Add the lack of support from the citizens in some Missouri school districts who rejected funding increases to make up the state's financial short sightedness. The total? The lack of the best and brightest staying or coming to Missouri to teach, further degrading our kids’ education.

It will not stop here.

Is the corrupting of our science programs next? Will Missouri follow Texas and Tennessee by passing its own "Monkey Trial" bill, allowing creationism in any of its forms taught next to evolution, biology and other life sciences? Will Missouri's conservatives follow in the footsteps of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney claiming that a college education is overrated? Will they deny access to books and other material because it might contain "religiously-offensive language," as in Athens, Ga.? Their religion, of course.

This is a slippery slope, but we have seen these very results in other states.

SB 806 is a bad idea, as are the attempts to institute voucher systems, the blaming of teachers for students who have no incentive to achieve, the severe underfunding schools or the desire that the public believe God will solve our problems if the children would only go to parochial schools.

I just do not understand how one can support a legislator who wants to kill the American dream of an education, a home and a successful career. Can you?

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.

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Matthew Schacht April 18, 2012 | 5:37 p.m.

The bill may frighten some educators, but it is intended to allow schools to get rid of low-performing teachers, according to Lea Crusey, state director for the nonprofit StudentFirst. Crusey visited my class today and explained that the aim of the legislation is to remove barriers that keep poor teachers in classrooms. For this reason, SB 806 should be considered in conjunction with HB 1526, which aims to institute teacher and principal performance standards. Together, these two bills create a framework for holding teachers accountable.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 18, 2012 | 7:50 p.m.

David, why should teachers enjoy tenure? Almost no other working Missourian has it. I can possibly see a use for college professors, but am skeptical about its need among K-12 educators.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 18, 2012 | 8:29 p.m.

I'm simply not going to support a "We need more money" approach. I've seen that strategy for 4 decades, and it hasn't worked.

I want changes first. Dramatic changes.

There is NO need for K-12 tenure. At the university level? Yes. K-12? No.

I want it harder to get a teaching degree. I want only the best and brightest accepted at the university level, and I want it difficult to remain and graduate. Salaries are poor for teachers because (1) too many people want to be a teacher and (2) CAN be a teacher. Let's make #2 more difficult and increase the career motivation for the best and brightest.

At the university, I want more time spent on core subjects the teacher is going to teach rather than "education" pablum. I want periodic teacher evaluations from both administrative levels and via formal testing. I've heard it said that it is impossible to correctly evaluate the variety of teachers. Any principal/superintendent making that statement should be fired as incompetent; such evaluations are made quite easily by corporations, and I'd hate to think those in education are less capable than those in business.

I want more local control of the curriculum, starting at the district level, then county level, then state level. Keep the feds and their money out. I want teachers and principals and superintendents, in that order, to have better control of who is in their classroom and who is not. I want chronic disruptors OUT, and I want teachers and principals making that decision. I want better legal immunity for teachers....not complete immunity....better immunity.

I want schools and districts competing more intensively with one another for students and teachers....with private schools. I want vouchers, and I want to direct where my taxes go....dependent upon whether I am happy with my school...or not. I should not have to pay double for private schools. I want YOU to have these same rights, too...whatever you decide is best for your kids.

Modify No-Child-Left-Behind. This Bush/Kennedy era law was a start on accountability and was MEANT to be modified. In spite of a change in Presidents and Congress, nothing has been done. Everyone is to blame.

Once these things (and others) are in place, increase teacher salaries by 50-100%. I'll help with my vote for more taxes.

I will simply NOT support plaintive calls for MORE money (for the children, of course) with no significant changes in the way we are doing it.

Disclosure: I am the father of a 4th grade teacher in another school district.

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 18, 2012 | 8:57 p.m.

Should we not hope that the above lengthy description of the condition of our schools and the recommendations needed to change them for better, might come from a future candidate for a school board? This presence would benefit any district, anywhere in our country.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 18, 2012 | 9:08 p.m.


If nominated, I will not accept.
If elected, I will not serve.

The LAST thing I will EVER do in this life is run for any public office. I'm quite content with my retirement, anyway....hunt, fish, farm, plant trees, spoil grandkids, agitate on forums, plant savannas, watch track and field.....sheesh...what's not to like?

But, thanks for the sentiment.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 18, 2012 | 9:39 p.m.

Here's another thought.

For centuries, "teaching" has mainly been "women's work". No, that is NOT a sexist sentiment (although the choice of words might be) just IS. You can prove this to yourself if you know how to count people and tell the difference between males and females. In K-12 in the US, women are mainly the teachers. That's a fact.

Why is this so?

Historically, it was one of the few professions available to women. Women simply were not "allowed" in the "man's world". They were not allowed to compete. "Teaching" was acceptable. It also didn't pay as much money. Still doesn't.

But today?

In today's world, I think teachers take it on the historical chin. They are victims of their history and the way in which we citizens STILL collectively think about this thing called "teaching" and the people who do it.

Part of the problem is there is little competition to be a teacher. At the university level, if you want to be a teacher....voila....after 4 years there ya go, you ARE one. Here's a job.

Why aren't teacher-wannabes screened like doctors and lawyers? Where's the competition? Where's the status?

The first breeds the second.

And salary comes after that.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield April 19, 2012 | 11:31 a.m.

"At the university level, if you want to be a teacher....voila....after 4 years there ya go, you ARE one. Here's a job."

Huh? You should try telling that to the legions of recent M.A.s and Ph.D.s struggling to find adjunct jobs, let alone tenure-track positions. Practically every day, Inside Higher Education has a column from someone bemoaning that reality or an article about a new program designed to help grad students find jobs outside of academia. The ratio of grad students to faculty slots has been way out of whack for at least 30 years and not just in the humanities.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 19, 2012 | 10:23 p.m.


I posted: "At the university level, if you want to be a teacher....voila....after 4 years there ya go, you ARE one. Here's a job."

Poorly worded. I'm not discussing university teachers. I'm discussing K-12 teachers who spend 4 years getting a BS at the university level. My phrase "At the university level" was meant to say that when a prospective teacher enters a university, they stay (generally) 4 years, graduate, then get employed in a school district.

Sorry for the confusion and poor writing.

I'm well aware that MS and PhDs are having serious problems finding good jobs. Unfortunately, university/colleges have found that "adjuncts" are a form of cheap and readily available labor....kinda like jobs going abroad at home.

Things come full circle, tho. One of these days the economy will improve sufficiently and adjuncts will say "Nope". Competition will return and adjuncts will have other options. With university enrollments sky-rocketing, who's gonna teach all those students if adjuncts disappear? Will universities start hiring lots of expensive full-timers? If so, you ain't seen nothing yet when it comes to tuition costs. And, of course, with an improved economy, adjuncts will be in a better position to bargain...they won't stay cheap. INO, still higher tuition.

I hope somebody is thinking about this now rather than be surprised later.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman April 21, 2012 | 1:47 p.m.

My dear readers - Thank you all for your comments, positive and negative. Remember, my primary purpose is to start the conversation.

Michael~ Most university undergrads in teaching programs wish it were that easy. To obtain a teaching degree, one must spend time in a classroom, part of the curriculum. This is not required in any other discipline. Premed does not require hospital experience. Engineering does not require engineering experience. programs do not require management experience. Teaching degrees do for those wishing to teach K-12.

There is a great quote (from either George Meanie or Jimmy Hoffa - I am unable to find the original) that says that there is no company that has a Union that does not deserve it. Same goes with negotiated tenure agreements.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 22, 2012 | 11:33 a.m.

Dave: "To obtain a teaching degree, one must spend time in a classroom, part of the curriculum."

I'm unsure of your point. This one semester of teaching (with supervision) in a school during the senior year means.....what? terms of all that I wrote?

You may be responding to a subtle inference that becoming a teacher is relatively easy compared to other disciplines. If so, I'll be more forthright.

Yes, I indeed think this is so.

It shouldn't be. It should be harder. Only the best and brightest need apply. Teaching should compete for students at the SAME academic and status levels as med, vet, engineering, etc. Right doesn't.

As disclosed in an earlier post, I'm the father of a 4th grade teacher in another school district. I helped put her through school and stayed involved, so I know stuff about this. I also have many friends and acquaintances who have been (or are) teachers. I'm dismayed at what teachers are forced to endure, both from their students and parents but also their districts and the state/feds. I hate it when my daughter returns to her home exhausted. I hate her paperwork.

But, I guarantee you that additional money for salary fixes nothing beyond 6 months of breathing easier financially. After that, the poor quality of life in the job erodes the joy of any salary increase; all the original problems still remain for the teacher, each and every day. Only the money is better. Folks delude themselves (and voters) that money is the salve to feel good forever, but it's not. You still have to go to work the next day with no implemented changes. The same problems are still there, and no amount of money salves that over time.

I believe teachers can have their cake and eat it, too. I think students will benefit, as will parents. As will the community, state, and nation.

Because of these beliefs and experiences on my part, my heart is hardened to the decades-long failed notion and pleas that more money is the simple be-all-end-all fix. No sale. I simply will not support repeated hitting of the societal head with a hammer once we find out it just keeps hurting.

(Report Comment)

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