Monday, September 21, 2015


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     State Representative Randy McDaniel, (R-Edmond), is Chairman of the House Business, Labor and Retirement Laws Committee.  He is proposing a plan that he says would help reduce the statewide teacher shortage.  McDaniel wants to increase the amount a teacher who retires from the public school system can earn from an Oklahoma school district to $18,000- up $3,000 from current law.  In Texas, retired teachers have to wait a year before they can be rehired by a public school, but there is no limit on what they can earn after that year.  In Arkansas, a retiree can work at school and earn up to $27,120 annually. 
     McDaniel’s proposal would require school districts who hire retirees to pay more to the Teachers Retirement System for that hire.  The teacher shortage is real and McDaniel’s proposal to increase the amount a retired educator can earn and not affect their retirement is a good step.  Like every state except Pennsylvania, Oklahoma faces a significant teacher shortage,” McDaniel says. “Demographics are impacting the situation causing record numbers of the most experienced teachers to retire. We want to provide an additional incentive for valued teachers to stay in the classroom, but the plan must also be affordable.”  Let’s examine what is fueling the teacher shortage nationally.
     First, baby boomer aged teachers are hitting retirement age.  It is simple demographics. Teachers born between 1946 and 1964 are entering retirement years. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future found that half of today’s teachers—1.72 million—could retire during the next 10 years.  The retiring baby boomer generation represents a challenge to any profession, and education is no exception.    
     Second, many teachers simply abandon the profession.  According to James Rowley, an education professor at the University of Dayton, nearly one half of educators leave teaching within their first five years. And contrary to popular belief, it isn’t about money.  A 2012 study conducted by The Heritage Foundation found that workers who switched from private employment to teaching most often took an hourly pay increase, whereas most of those who left teaching for the private sector took pay decreases. The Manhattan Institute looked at the hourly pay of public-school teachers in the top 66 metropolitan areas in the country and found that teachers made on average $34.06 per hour.  Journalists earned 24 percent less, Architects, 11 percent less, Psychologists, 9 percent less, Chemists, 5 percent less, so money isn’t the issue.  Teaching is hawked as a ‘rewarding’ profession, but times have changed.  A 2013 poll found that teacher satisfaction has declined by 23% in just 5 years.  Only 39% of teachers polled were very satisfied with their job.  51% of teachers reported being stressed several days a week in their job.  Rowley says new teachers should have mentors and that will help retain teachers.  Teaching is a very complex profession. It’s full of all kinds of subtleties and nuances. It’s something you learn on the job,” Rowley says. “If we’re going to be learning on the job, we know it’s important to have someone guide and direct us.”
     Third, federal government mandates have made teaching more about tests and less about education.  That contributes to those leaving teaching either to another profession or retirement.  And it’s not going to get better.  NPR(yes I know they are liberal) reported that California has seen a 74% decline in teacher program enrollments in their state universities in just the past decade. NPR also found the decreased enrollment wasn’t about money.  Students shunning teaching said it was about Common Core, high stakes testing, and evaluation of teachers by test scores.  Students considering education as a profession wanted to teach, not fill out paperwork.
     Fourth, the breakdown of the American family has made teaching difficult.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 40% of babies born in the US are now born to unmarried women.  According to the Pew Research Center, 46% of US kids under 18 are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.  Compare that to 73% in 1960 and 61% in 1980.   Today’s teachers are expected to deal with issues that arise when students are affected by divorce and their parent going to prison.  The world is more complicated for today’s kids and teachers are often the ones they turn to in times of crisis. 
     Teachers impact our lives.  As the husband of a retired teacher, I can attest that Andy Rooney was right when he said, “Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us, but teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.”

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