We need to give teachers the resources they need
Now that teachers have lost more than 3% of their compensation to federal and state cuts—over $20 billion in public school funding according to the National Education Association—they can’t be expected to live up to the system.
The recent Los Angeles tragedy—60 teachers killed and 350 injured—must be the final straw for average teachers who are already stretched thin under the restraints of wage cuts, inefficiencies, and high taxes on hardworking teachers, who must serve and pay for higher education and health care costs of formerly marginalized children.
Fortunately, the antidote is not just to drop the hammer on teachers—but to partner with them and give them the resources they need to lead their students to academic excellence. Every day, teachers go to the schools and look out for children, calling out safety violations, disorderly conduct, and poor behavior. Teachers see through a haze of fake news and typically know the students first hand.
Having seen the consequences of violence firsthand as an educator in a Milwaukee public high school during the riots of the 1960s, I can tell you that if the professionals in charge do not intervene, even after school hours, bad things can happen. The worst schools with the worst staff and students fare worse. Look at the high school this teacher just left: An administrator refused to intervene in an armed teen throwing desks, so the teacher had to take matters into her own hands. Schools need to reach out to the needsiest students in the neighborhood, partnering with retired teachers.
Many schools struggle due to an excess of support staff due to a lack of funding for actual teachers. In fact, more than $100 billion dollars could be saved if the Obama administration’s proposal to fully fund early childhood education were implemented. Then again, many of these educators already earn more than teachers—not all of them want to come into the work force full-time. In fact, a study by Right Futures— a research group—shows that more than 40% of counselors say they would not leave their jobs if they had more money.
As a longtime proponent of paid family leave, I applaud the giant strides taken by California, the first state to implement a paid leave program (the federal bill was vetoed by President Trump). The program allows employees to receive up to 12 weeks of time off to care for a sick relative or a newborn or adopt child (parents and new dads will receive the same benefits). The program was modeled after the Scandinavian concept of “the 13th day” in families, which supports direct caregiving. The study also shows that after switching to a paid leave program, pregnant women who stay in school and job secure jobs reported fewer problems and exhibited lower rates of depression and anxiety.
The research confirms what school employees already know: “equitable funding” and student empowerment will ultimately improve outcomes for students.
While state and local policies have largely failed to improve accountability in the classroom, national policies, especially in the form of expanded paid family leave, can improve accountability and also raise teacher morale and their role in the lives of their students.