Over at the schoolhouse

Teachers are like any other professional service group. You can expect about 10 percent to be exceptional in competence and achievement. You can expect about 10 percent to be literally worthless to their profession. Of the remaining 80 percent some will work hard and get the job done competently. Others will make it through their days by doing only what’s is necessary to get by. Their product is typically representative of the makeup of the group.

Here in wild and wonderful West Virginia, our public school teachers were on strike for 9 days for a pay increase. In our state, the average teacher salary for 2016 was $45, 662. The median household income for our state from 2012 to 2016 was $42, 664. Median means that half the state makes more than that, half makes less. On the average, school teachers earn more than half of West Virginians. The per capita income here is $24,002. You get that when you divide the state’s total income by its population. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $24,600 per year. Not only is our per capita income below the federal poverty level, nearly 18 percent of our state (17.9 for 2016) actually lives below the poverty level.

National Education Association Rankings and Estimates Report
United States Census Bureau Quick Facts

The bottom line is teaching jobs in West Virginia, compared to the remainder of the population are good jobs. Yet, they went on strike for 9 days and were rewarded with a 5 percent pay raise. I may have missed it, but I did not hear of teachers demanding increased school safety. Now on strike for better pay are teachers in nearby Kentucky and out in Oklahoma. Maybe West Virginia finally leads in something.

I know the state ranks near the bottom in teacher salary, but comparatively in practically every major economic category including income, so does the rest of the state. Our taxes pay school teacher salaries. That leaves the question doesn’t it. Unless we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, if there was not enough revenue to give them a 5 percent pay raise then, how can there be enough now?

Before you start chucking spears at me, understand my belief that our public school teachers are the backbone of our society. They are the teachers of our children, more so than many parents. Some are overburdened with home spun discipline issues and the neglected. I was fortunate to spend my first year out of the Army at a high school. In 2000, I wrote I watched your kids today noting a rather typical day. Everything in the article actually happened. I don’t believe my classroom was an anomaly, but more than one teacher assured me, “We are glad to have the JROTC program. If we didn’t, those kids wouldn’t have a place to fit in.” I had some excellent students who’ve done well in life, but I had others who were funneled into JROTC by counselors, “because they didn’t fit in.”

I believe most teachers follow the curriculum, I am just concerned about within those parameters what they’re teaching. Recently, we’ve seen kids that do not know American history, do not know how our government works and who are admittedly taught that socialism is a better form of government than our representative republic without being taught about the failings of socialism. And most of them can’t explain what a representative republic is. It is not democracy, while most think and are clearly taught that is exactly what it is.

We’ve also heard example after example of teachers in the classroom degrading the military, raving against the President, and ranting about social justice issues. I do not think this is the norm for every school or every teacher, but the evidence we see on our television screens and in our streets should make all of us question the product coming out of our public school systems.

I never thought teachers were paid sufficiently for what we ask of them and it’s a solid maybe that we get what we pay for. Maybe it’s time to look at how education is delivered. Maybe we need to develop a business model for schools. One with a merit based promotion and pay system tied to measurable effectiveness of the product and the demonstrated competence of the teacher. We need a model with firm, unannounced performance evaluations for all teachers conducted by people not directly affiliated with public school systems. We need to separate competent teachers from political activists and the incompetent. We need to teach American exceptionalism, the evils of Communism and Socialism, the value of free enterprise capitalism, American history, American government and reading, writing and arithmetic. For students, we need technical and academic tracks. Students in technical tracks could spend some of their educational time in apprenticeship programs.

Fire teachers who cannot meet established competency standards. Do no promote kids through school or into life who cannot function. The other option is the speed train to third world status with a ruling majority who can’t even spell constitution much less know what’s in it.  They will, however, be able to deliver a fiery speech as long as they can find someone to write it for them.

© J. D. Pendry 2018


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