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Est. April 5, 2002
September 29, 2016 - Issue 668

Why Is There
A "LOOMING Teacher Shortage?"


"Teachers are paid considerably less than others
who have the same level of education and experience. 
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), reported in August,
'Since 1996, teachers’ weekly wages have decreased
$30 per week (adjusted for inflation) while all college
graduates’ average weekly wages have increased $124.'"

In the past several weeks, there have been reports in the press and in newspaper editorials, trying to wrestle with the problem of a teacher shortage and one local paper started out with: “Ask 100 people to come up with the reasons for the looming teacher shortage in New York and potential solutions to it, and you’ll likely get 100 different answers…”

While that old saw can apply to almost any problem, the answer to the teacher shortage likely boils down to just a few. For decades, America’s great Right Wing has been railing against public education and, especially the teachers and their unions. Think tanks of the rich and powerful have zeroed in on the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association and all of their local chapters, charging that they are the reason that education in the U.S. trails the results of most developed countries.

And, they have more closely concentrated on the “powerful teachers unions” as a cause of the downward trend of education results in our public schools. They don’t say how these “powerful unions” negatively affect education, but Corporate America has lots of think tanks filled with “fellows” and “associates” who come up with rationales to continue the bashing of public schools and teachers. It’s what they do for a living and they have all day to do it, every day. They are salaried propagandists.

What really galls these people and their paymasters is that, in most places, the teachers’ unions have some power in politics and, for whatever reason, they don’t like that political power. And this, despite that many unions, including teachers’ unions, are just as likely to endorse and fund Republican candidates at the state and local levels. And this happens, once in a while, even in congressional races. It’s just that the rich do not like teachers having anything to say about anything political.

It may seem that people like the billionaire Koch brothers, funders of so many Right Wing enterprises, just don’t like teachers. It’s likely that they don’t care so much for teachers, but what’s really eating at them and their fellow billionaires and millionaires is public education, itself. They don’t like it.

That’s why, many years ago, they set about a grand plan to privatize public education, just like they have been scheming for decades to privatize all public services that it’s possible to privatize. Examples: trash collection and disposal, municipal water systems, the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. military (substantially accomplished already), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. This is a very short list of services to be privatized.

The charter school “movement” was not a movement at all. It was started by people like the Koch brothers and other billionaires and their rich friends as a way to eat at the substance of public education. Charters in a given school district, get much of their funding from school district taxpayers, who do not have any appreciable control over these “private-public” schools, although they foot the bills. They have their own school boards that control curricula, books, and working conditions, until very recently, they had no unions (there are now a few) to protect their teachers’ pay, benefits, or working conditions.

This was followed by demands that teachers “teach to the test,” Common Core, in which a standard of testing was set up for virtually all students, no matter what the conditions of their cities or neighborhoods and, if the students didn’t deliver, the teachers were held responsible for students’ failure. All of this adds up to gross disrespect of the teachers and their profession. It’s a primary reason why graduates don’t go on to get teaching certificates and go into the schools. A retired teacher, asked this month why young people are not going into teaching, thought for just a moment, and said, “Common Core.”

Another overriding problem is that teachers are paid considerably less than others who have the same level of education and experience. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), reported in August, “Since 1996, teachers’ weekly wages have decreased $30 per week (adjusted for inflation) while all college graduates’ average weekly wages have increased $124.”

And, EPI noted, the wage penalty has grown “astonishingly” among women, in that in 1960, women teachers earned 14.7 percent more than women workers with comparable education and experience. In 2015, there was a negative 13.9 percent wage gap for women teachers. The institute also reported that, in 1996, teachers made just 2 percent less than workers with similar education and qualifications. So, you don’t have to go back to 1960 to see that tremendous negative gap for teachers. Again, it shows that the drumbeat of animus against teachers, their unions, and public education has had a profound effect on both teachers and public education.

If this disrespect for teachers, wherever they teach, along with a lack of competitive pay, are primary reasons for the teacher shortage, it is clear that the problems in poorer districts, in inner cities and rural areas, are several times worse than the average for all teachers. Although privatization of all education is making inroads across the country, it has not reached a crisis, yet. However, what it has done is to make teaching in public schools less valuable to society and more competitive with charter schools, which pay less, provide fewer benefits, and tend to be willing to work teachers to exhaustion.

These two significant reasons for the teacher shortage should be part of every discussion, in every state, at every level of government, and in every newspaper editorial, but they are not given the consideration they deserve, if they are considered at all. This especially true of the project to privatize the schools. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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