Solving the teacher shortage is not rocket science. It’s Home-Ec.

Imagine what our society would look like if the teaching profession were valued — and compensated! — like star quarterbacks and first-round basketball draft picks. We didn’t have that idea. Brilliant comedy sketch duo Key & Peele did a 2015 ESPN sketch titled “TeachingCenter,” featuring a slow-motion replay analysis of a star teacher expertly bringing an introverted student into a class discussion and another teacher from Ohio recruited away by a public school in New York.

It was “an offer she couldn’t refuse – $80 million over six years, with an additional $40 million in incentives based on test results,” Jordan’s sportscaster character intones breathlessly. Peele before sending him to Radio City Music Hall for coverage of the first selection of the highly anticipated (and sadly fictional) 2015 Teacher Draft.

“And just like that, you’re a millionaire,” says Peele of the first-choice teacher, by the high school with the nation’s worst test scores.

If only.

For decades, teachers have offered us the greatest – and perhaps the cruelest – of bargains, imparting knowledge and nurturing our children for mere pennies on the dollar. As with any profession, the skills and passion of each teacher vary widely, but overall our society has perpetually and increasingly undervalued and underpaid the people who shape the young leaders of tomorrow.

Our teachers are expected to watch for signs of trauma in their students and signs of trouble at home. We are increasingly asking them to also serve as classroom bouncers, protecting children in ways they shouldn’t have to while squeezing into fractions and lessons about civic engagement.

State regulations and program restrictions piled up. Spend more, work harder, absorb more vitriol from parents and lawmakers, and prepare for the devastating possibility of violence – all while trying to help dozens of young people learn tough subjects and earn less than the average. Oh, and Texas is one of the worst states for retired teachers, which hasn’t had a cost of living increase since 2004.

As the severity of the pandemic has fluctuated and its effects on learning have reverberated, as various cultural triggers have been installed by lawmakers wary of lessons about race and discrimination, many teachers have decided they had had enough.

A new Texas State Teachers Association poll released earlier this month indicates that 70% of respondents are considering leaving the profession, more than at any time in the past 40 years.

The survey results plummeted amid a national teacher shortage that Texas is not immune to, with thousands of jobs still unfilled. The respondents’ average salary was $59,000, more than $7,000 below the national average; their average salary has increased since 2018 by $5,779, including salary increases ordered by the legislature in 2019 — some, however, lost an average increase of $2,136 in annual health insurance premiums.

The Texas Tribune reported in the spring that nearly 500 teachers across the state dropped out of contract between last October and April, a 60% increase from the previous year. “We’re leaving because it’s not worth it anymore,” Staci Crosswell, now a former second-grade teacher at Humble ISD, told the Tribune.

The TSTA survey found that 41% of participants said they took extra jobs during the school year to meet their family’s financial needs, even though 79% of moonlighters believed their extra jobs were hurting the quality of their job. education. Most said they would quit that second or third job, but it would take a raise of around $12,000 to do so.

In 2019, Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation establishing the Teacher Incentive Allowance, which awards raises to top-performing teachers. So far, it has been rolled out to about 10% of the approximately 1,200 school districts in Texas; Dallas ISD, because it has had a teacher incentive program since 2012 that rewards performance rather than experience, was well positioned to get more funding through the program than all other districts combined. : $29.2 million in 2019-2020 and $25.8 million in 2020-2021.

Despite exhaustion – early morning and Sunday grading sessions and endless email exchanges and lesson plans and (for some) internal frustration with restrictive schedules handed down from above – many teachers nonetheless head to their schools each morning of the week full of purpose and hope.

Fred Wilson, an eighth-grade English teacher at Horace Mann Junior School in Baytown, told us last week that he had gone more than a year without teaching due to fatigue. “I just had to get away and cool off,” he said. But he’s back in the classroom this fall, helping guide middle schoolers through literature and life.

“Teaching allows me to be myself and gives me the best opportunity to make positive changes in children’s lives,” Wilson said.

We are grateful for those like Wilson who are thrilled to wake up early and go through poetry analysis with two dozen 13-year-olds.

Saying “thank you” to our teachers in Texas is just one step. The other is to let our elected representatives – from the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to the Senators and State Representatives – know that our educators deserve more, our children deserve more than this cruel bargain.

With a $27 billion surplus to spend at their January meeting, lawmakers are expected to commit to another teacher pay hike and a long-delayed cost-of-living increase in pension checks for retired teachers. .

Our society will never revere them, or pay them, as star athletes. But a decent salary and a dignified retirement shouldn’t break the bank.

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