I have been silent for months on the issue of education. I haven’t even said anything about the election in weeks. But a Lo-Hud article about the plummeting of teacher candidate enrollments in NYS colleges and Universities revived my sensibilities. The reason public education will fall to the appointees, corporations, Eva Moskowitz’s etc. is simple. It isn’t testing. It isn’t Common Core. It isn’t whoever is Secretary of Education. It is simply this: a lack of good quality devoted teachers.
For decades the numbers of teaching candidates has dwindled. For years people have been writing about the “lowering of standards” in many schools of education. For years people like me who went into teaching have disappeared as the calling to even higher paid, more prestigious positions have stolen the best and brightest from the profession. Economics, supply, and demand have reared their ugly heads to create an atmosphere where teaching, even for the most dedicated is a terrible choice for a lifetime profession.
For years some of us have fought against this and the rise of TFA and its cooperating charter schools. We have fought against Common Core, and Standardized Tests, yet we have failed to see the bigger, long-term picture. The end result of these abominations has been to greatly decrease the number of candidates for teaching regardless of the lower pay and prestige. These abominations have created such terrible working conditions that, not only do fewer want to teach to use their talents and honed skills, but more and more experienced teachers want out because they have lost the working conditions that allow them to do what they do best…TEACH!
The net result? More vacancies, fewer qualified and expert candidates to fill them, more teacher shortages, more “trumped up” reasons to say that schools are failing. Of course there is a wealth-based sliding scale in this phenomenon. Rich school districts don’t see this. Teachers in these districts continue to work almost as they had prior to the new pressures, because of past and present successes. They also still receive the highest salaries and best benefit packages, at least somewhat comparable to many of their friends in business. Middle-income districts see a slower decline in the number of qualified teachers as their districts succumb more slowly to statewide and economic pressures. Working class districts are harder hit, as fewer teachers want to work under harder conditions and lower wages and benefits.
Hardest hit? No surprises here. Urban or rural, poorest districts get the biggest losses of teachers and good candidates because the state mandates are more entrenched, the working conditions poorest, the ability to be creative often gone, and of course the wages and benefits are unable to support a family. So where do all the charters and TFA people go? We know.
Based on the findings in the Lo-Hud article about the huge declines in enrollments, it wont be long until more working class, then middle class, and even wealthy districts will feel this heat and be forced to go along with the cancerous changes. Friends in one of my former teaching haunts, (Scarsdale) tell me that the number of really good candidates for any teaching position has drastically dropped. I am not surprised. When I was on hiring committees in the late 1990s through 2008, I saw that even then, even there. It has gotten worse as more and more people are retiring.
So, by 2025, will alternative professional schools and TFA like programs replace universities and colleges? Will teaching be a career or a temp job, easily handled by robotic technocrats who can follow computer programs, not creative teachers? Will pubic school systems be privatized in their entirety? Will the teaching profession disappear like coal mining? Will automation do to it what it did to auto manufacturing? Will it be “exported” to private concerns? Yes. We have ignored this issue too long. We have failed to see the bigger picture. We have used poor political strategies that seemed partly successful, but have blinded us to this huge problem. How are the children? Without teachers, they are not well.