Home vs. School Improvement?

GovtTools_Pop_6015By Matthew Olinski

I just got back from returning some ceramic tiles to the home improvement store.  I chose ceramic tiles because, in my opinion, they look better and are more long lasting than the lower priced peel and stick tiles, which I have used also used. Although in the past, I have been the “do it yourself home improvement type,” this time I had to bring in professionals to lay the tiles down, both quickly and–more importantly–professionally looking. As I was looking at the completed work, I got to thinking. There is an old adage that you get what you pay for. I find this to be both pertinent and disheartening considering the value we place on education.

Historically, Wisconsin has been a high achieving educational atmosphere, both public and private. Unfortunately, in very current affairs and the latest state budget, public education is being defunded and some schools that have no accountability for performance are being given further funding. These schools do not need to accept all students, and in some cases, students forfeit some of their rights as such when they enroll in the program.

I have several concerns regarding the current attack on public education in Wisconsin. First and foremost, being a public school teacher, I am dismayed at the prospect of what might happen to our education system in Wisconsin. As we are coming up on the celebration of our independence and forming our own country, we should be particularly concerned in maintaining a top quality education system in this country that, unlike our European and Asian competition, offers a free and appropriate education to all students, not only a select few.

Public schools are very transparent. They need to report their scores annually. Why then are these alternative schools not required to report out their results as well?  If there is true performance advantages, show the proof.

When we devalue the work that teachers do, both figuratively and literally, people will either leave the education field or not enter it in the first place. There is already evidence that the number of students entering the college of education not only at Marquette but in schools statewide is decreasing. There is a shortage of teachers in the math and science fields. It’s no wonder when you can be an accountant and earn quite a bit more pay.

As an economic consideration, the private schools should also take note.  When the pay of public schools is reduced, the private schools can reduce their pay rate as well because the competitive rates are now lower all around. There is a law of supply and demand in play here.

In addition, there are quite a few more requirements to maintain your licensure now compared to when I received my DPI license in 2001. There are many other professional fields that need to maintain current knowledge in their field. How many people are shying away from the teaching profession due to the licensing requirements that are now in place? Don’t get me wrong, we obviously need highly qualified people to be in charge of our classrooms, but why are we (and I use the term “we” to refer to the people who make these decisions) making it that much more difficult to attract teachers to the field?

Economically, it is making less and less sense to go into education as a career.  Most people realize that you don’t go into teaching to get rich, but at the same time, the ability to raise a family and put food on the table is an important consideration as well.  When we (again – the people higher up than myself) drive good people out of the profession and then further discourage new teachers to either enter the career field or to stick around for more than a few years, what will happen to our education system?

Just some food for thought as we look at the future of our education system.

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