Education isn't an issue!
“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
Education is often listed as an “issue” in the realm of political campaigns which I believe fails to address the duty with which we’ve been entrusted with of teaching our children. People who run for political office in areas where education is under their purview should automatically have a stance or set of ideals about the education of our youth. Education isn’t a matter of polling… it shouldn’t matter what issues are at the top of our mind at the moment. Education is too important to be ignored simply because it doesn’t poll well. I believe that education should be a permanent fixture an important focus for legislators and candidates, what are the issues within education that matter?
Teachers Deserve Better Pay
Teaching is a calling. Our teachers are a highly educated and committed group of men and women. We demand as much from them and why shouldn’t we? As parents, when we drop off our children at school or put them on the bus each morning; we have the right to expect that we are placing them in the hands of professionals who have their best interests at heart and have a high level of competency to do their job well.
How do we ensure that our children are in good hands, and how do we continue to attract bright young minds to the teaching profession? I’ve been talking with educators to see just what it is that matters and what they think will help us do a better job of teaching and training our children to succeed. I’ve talked with classroom teachers, in-school administrators, program administrators, district superintendents, even college students who are working to become teachers to see what they think is important. I’ve also talked numerous of parents to gather their input. No one cares more about their child and the success of that child than their parents. Here’s what I’ve found.
1. Better Starting Pay - Teacher pay in Tennessee is abysmal. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, as of last year the base salary for a new teacher is $38,809/year. That’s just a few cents over $18 per hour! Compared to other states we rank 30th in the nation for starting teacher salary. We can do better!
2. Better Pay for Experience – Surely it gets better once you’ve been teaching for a while. While you’d think that would be the case it’s not! The longer you teach the more ground you lose compared to your peers in other states. Average pay for teachers in Tennessee is $51,862 which when compared to other states we rank 41st in the nation. Again, we can do better!
3. Better Comparative Pay – When it comes to our children, we shouldn’t be looking for a bargain. We must stop the “brain drain.” Tennessee is losing good, experienced teachers because they can leave the profession and find better pay elsewhere. Compared to other professionals with the same education and years of experience, teachers in Tennessee are paid 79¢ on the dollar. In other words, teachers in Tennessee comparatively make 21% less than their professional counterparts. We can do Better!
Curriculum Decisions belong with Local Boards of Education
The fact that the best decisions about what should be taught to our children can best be made by parents and teachers working together at the local level is something that can only be messed up by big government under the influence of special interests. Our children and their education are too important; we can no longer allow the decisions about what they are taught to be purchased by the highest bidder. As a parent you should be able to look the people in the eye who make these types of decisions. You should have the ability, through the ballot box, to replace these decision makers if they do a lousy job. Local Boards of Education are the best place for these discussions. Parents should be involved in the process, and teachers should be involved alongside parents when curriculum is being developed. It is time we place the education of our children back into the hands of those that care the most about them, their parents, their teachers, and a local board of education that will be held accountable for their decisions at election time.
I am a product of the public school system in Tennessee, and my children were all educated in the same public school system. Many things changed between the time I was in school and when my children were in school, but some things remained the same. One of the things we had in common were those standardized “fill in the bubble” tests. I’m sure there are some benefits from these tests, but I can tell you that parents, students, and teachers all pretty much agree that something must change! One fact about these tests that hasn’t changed is that we spend a ton of money on them and it seems the only people happy with them are the companies that create and administer the tests. Some students are just better at taking tests than others; does this mean they’re smarter? If one teacher has a classroom full of great test takers does this make them a better teacher than their counterpart who has a classroom full of students who struggle with these standardized tests? It’s time we demand a better solution. It’s time we gather classroom teachers together and listen to what they have to say about the matter.
The educational system that teaches our children needs to be as flexible and adaptable as the students they teach. Schools and teachers should be encouraged and rewarded for finding new ways to teach our children how to live and work in our ever-changing world. We need rigorous curriculums that are relevant to the children we teach; this enables children to become lifelong learners who are skilled in many areas.
As your Tennessee State Representative, I will always be a champion for Education. It's not an "issue" it will always be a priority.
What are your thoughts on education? Let me know in the comments or feel free to call or email me. - Mitchell