Our schools are breaking.

Not that I would personally attribute state budgets to solely breaking US schools, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to deny that we’re not facing a huge problem.  Mr. Bill Gates, although not necessarily proposing a solution beyond gold standard accounting (*note – he also slips in the need for technology…), does bring to light a very important topic:

Regarding state budgets, here are three key points made by Mr. Gates:

1. Is anyone paying attention?

2. Enron would blush (implying just how egregious the state’s mismanagement of funds has been).

3.  It’s the investment in the young that makes us great.

Now one might be tempted to dismiss the notion that our schools are breaking.  I challenge those individuals to take a scientific approach and simply consider that fact.

Fact – Programs, such as early intervention services, are being cut.

Fact – The number of teachers is being cut, causing class size to increase.

Fact – SAT scores in 2015 were some of the worst ever.

Fact  – Enrollment in education programs is in decline. A smaller pool of future teachers will be entering the profession.

I personally can’t find fault with those who pursue a different profession.  There are fewer incentives to enter (and stay in) the field, and a culture has developed where the ills of society are attributed to the shortcomings of teachers, a culture where it’s “normal” to belittle and scorn teachers, a culture where it’s commonplace to spew misinformation and/or choice examples that simply fuel vitriol against teachers.

For instance, in a local paper, a resident recently wrote about “thankless” teachers making 6 figures after 5 years of teaching.

First off, when considering the idea of a six-figure salary, one must keep in mind the cost of living in such an area – a county with the highest cost of living in the state on NJ.

Secondly, I appreciated the time put into the rebuttal by the responding teacher.  Some key points from this teacher’s response:

…as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
First, no teacher makes a six-figure salary after five years. In fact, I have been teaching for 19 years, hold a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and do not make a six-figure salary.
Currently, I pay 29 percent of the cost of my healthcare, but with my next raise, I will pay 32 percent for the exact same plan.
Tenure never meant a lifetime job guarantee and under current law,
it is now easier for teachers to be removed.
As for my pension, at the rate at which the governor is funding that pension, it will likely be bankrupt by 2027. Even with full funding, if I wanted to retire with an 80 percent funded pension, I will have to complete more than 45 years of teaching.

To begin with, it’s a shame that a teacher has to spend his time defending his profession and correcting misinformation that so easily circulated throughout the community.

It’s no wonder that fewer teachers are entering or remaining in the field.

Now, my intention here is not to paint a picture of doom and gloom.  However, I would like to paint a picture of necessity.

Being optimistic is not looking at problems through rose-colored glasses.  More accurately, it’s the belief that we all have in us the ability to be an agent for change. This is my intention.Image may be subject to copyright

If we continue in this direction and do nothing about it, then we’re figuratively sitting in our houses with walls burning down around us.

Education is the foundation and future of this nation. 

Here’s the good news.

Although some teachers are deciding to leave the profession or not enter it, to begin with, there are still many teachers in the profession who care.

Yes, there may be some bad teachers, just as there are some bad apples in any profession (although I’m not the only one who sees that teachers seem to be held to a different standard).

Here’s what I see:

I see teachers who go above and beyond, often without a thank you.
I see teachers who, despite the increasing obstacles placed in their paths, toil to make school a great experience for their students.
I see teachers who care deeply. Rather than send a child back to foster care, a teacher in my building has taken his student in as his own, first fostering this child and is now in the process of adopting.  Just across the way at the middle school, another teacher has gone on to adopt two high-needs foster children into his family and is now the father of five instead of three.
I see extremely smart and talented teachers who could have great careers elsewhere.
I see many who have had successful careers elsewhere (despite the saying by those outside the profession that, “those who can’t do, teach”).

These are the teachers we need to keep.  These are the teachers we need to attract.

It’s difficult to contend that there’s much of a future for this nation without an investment in education.

An investment in education is an investment in the young.

And “it’s the investment in the young that makes us great.”