EDITORIAL/Better teachers deserve better pay
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 12:00 AM
Good teachers deserve pay raises, but where is the Legislature going to find
$35 million annually when, among other things, the state Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) is spiraling toward insolvency?
Mississippi spends about 60 cents of every dollar on education. Simply throwing more money hasn't fixed anything yet - and there are signs that literally prove it. (See illustration below.) Three of a dozen signs at a recent Mississippi Association of Educators rally at the Capitol misspelled words like "education," illustrating the depth of woes. MAE is the state's largest teacher union.
Pay raises alone won't fix that kind of incompetence. There has to be major reform.
That being said, there are teachers who put up with more in nine months than a prison warden does in a year. Yet, teachers are still taken for granted.
Why are children even being thrust into the politics to begin with?
There are 82 counties in the state and 152 school districts. That equates to 152 salaries for superintendents and countless assistants of one kind or another.
Then there are curriculum coordinators and people to handle other specific guidelines handed down by both federal and state agencies. They all have salaries, too. Most everyone is paid more than teachers.
There's a lot of duplication that could be eliminated with reforms mandated by the Legislature. Some of these school districts are heavy on administration while at the same time short on discipline.
It used to be that teachers went to university, received certification and taught. They were allowed to maintain order in the classroom as well.
Generally speaking, Mississippi teachers answer to several layers of administrators who make more money than they do. These higher-ups allegedly teach teachers how to teach because somebody in Washington or Jackson said to do so.
If we aren't producing quality teachers from the beginning, maybe that's the first place we need to start.
Well, teachers aren't the problem, of course.
Money hasn't solved problems in our most troubled schools. Good teachers have. Tutoring has. Better discipline has. Parents have. Efficient administrators have.
Good teachers deserve a raise, but where will the Legislature find the money?
PERS has $15 billion in unfunded liabilities. That's $15 billion in the red. If you're in the state retirement system, that should be very disturbing news.
It's as if elected officials are seeing who can ignore the $15 billion elephant in the room the longest.
Merit pay for teachers has its merits, but it's not an easy fix.
Put simply, neither across-the-board pay raises nor merit pay are answers.
There must be major educational reform in Mississippi. So now that the teachers have everybody's attention, let's elevate the discussion.