My guess is that many of you will already have seen today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The Imaginary Teacher Shortage.” The author, University of Arkansas education professor Jay Greene, argues that President Obama and Governor Romney were too quick to agree that America needs to hire more teachers (although he also points out that Romney would leave these decisions up to states.)
He then highlights statistics that I’ve published on this blog before.
In 1970, public schools employed 2.06 million teachers, or one for every 22.3 students, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Digest of Education Statistics. In 2012, we have 3.27 million teachers, one for every 15.2 students.
Yet National Association of Educational Progress test scores are stagnant, and the high school dropout rate refuses to budge.
Professor Greene also notes that teacher salaries haven’t risen anywhere nearly as much as teacher numbers, and that
There is also a trade-off between the number of teachers we have and the salary we can offer to attract better-quality people. As the teacher force has grown by almost 50% over the past four decades, average salaries for teachers (adjusted for inflation) have grown only 11%, the Department of Education reports. Imagine what kinds of teachers we might be able to recruit if those figures had been flipped and we were offering 50% more pay without having significantly changed student-teacher ratios. Having better-paid but fewer teachers could also save us an enormous amount on pension and health benefits, which have risen far more than salaries in cost per teacher over the past four decades.
Anyway, there’s nothing new here, but the op-ed offers a concise summary of an argument that our presidential candidates apparently don’t want to make. And yes, I know that class sizes are higher in Utah. But as Utah taxpayers grapple with where and how they spend additional education dollars, they should think about whether it makes more sense to boost teacher hiring . . . or boost the state’s low teacher salaries. Yes, I know that many of my readers will want to check “all of the above.” But if we have to choose, where do you stand?