Instability a problem in public education, and a choke in supply could up demand…

Every year about this time in California teachers get layoff notices. It’s required by state law that they get these notices if it looks like local school district budgets will not be able to take care of their salaries for the next school year.

Quite often their jobs are saved — not always of course.

Most often it is the newer teachers, lower on the seniority list, who are affected.

Just how we can expect to attract quality teachers in such an unstable environment is beyond me.

I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but one of the major problems in California is the convoluted method of school funding. Some of the money comes from local taxpayers, some from the state and some from the federal government.

Local school districts like to think that they should have some control over their own schools, but when much or most of the funding is from outside sources, that control has to be ceded to those who fund the schools.

State and local regulations require that the local schools do all kinds of things that cost a lot of money, but state and federal funding is not stable from year to year.

Right off the bat I see a way — although it would in reality not work — that school districts could make their funding more stable and not have to put their teaching staffs in a panic once a year. They could forego state and federal funding and depend entirely upon local funding. Then they would have complete control.

Unfortunately, too many taxpayers I have heard have this attitude: “I no longer have any kids in school so I am not interested in school funding”.

If there is to be public education then it is the responsibility of the public. Most of us (not all) benefited from public education. At the time, we were too young to be paying the taxes that supported it. But then we grew up and it became part of our responsibility.

But of course education costs more these days than it did in the horse and buggy and one-room school house days. Totally local funding would likely not be practical in a lot of areas and then there is always the problem of rich districts being able to afford better schools than poor districts. And that is why we have state and federal funding.

An article I read in the Sacramento Bee today said that along with this instability fewer students in California are enrolling in teacher preparation programs — although that does not seem to be the case at the University of California at Davis, but an official there said students are “nervous”.

Another teacher preparation program official said one good thing in all of this is that more students are going for multiple subject credentials, thus making them more employable.

I also think that maybe what we need here is a true teacher shortage. That might force districts to pay more and offer better working conditions.

And while I am not the one to give career advice (when I look back on my own life), I would say to prospective teachers and even veteran teaches, welcome to the real world where things just don’t seem to stay the same and where, sad to say, supply and demand and the search for talent and specific skills tends to determine employment and salaries in the workforce (I’m talking about the total workforce, not the teaching workforce).

I’m pretty dubious about paying teachers or paying them extra based on performance, because how does one judge a teacher’s performance? Most of the time it seems to be assumed that the number of A grades produced in the class indicates teacher performance. Well that would certainly seem to indicate something, but what? If you have a group of smart pupils they would tend to do well regardless. If the grading is too easy then that would have an effect to.

To me, it seems the effort ought to be put into ensuring teachers have mastered the subjects they are to teach. It is assumed that if someone has gone through a teacher training program that they probably had the interest to want to impart knowledge and that they have learned something about how to do it. And we all know that the truth is some people are just born teachers; they have something that is inside them, something that really cannot be taught.

I’d rather see that teachers be paid well and that poor teachers be culled out before they get into the classroom.

Too often we see poor student performance and blame it on the teachers.

The responsibility for learning is on the student. Unless we have simply hired incompetent teachers, I would suspect the main problem in low student performance has more to do with student attitude and the attitudes of parents and the social surroundings.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think teachers and other school personnel should have to be cheerleaders and self-esteem promoters. There’s too much to learn these days with the explosion of knowledge and technology. We really do not have time for that folderol.

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