Monday, May 29, 2006

A Nation at Risk

Until recently, I never really thought about differences in public vs. private education. This is probably not hugely atypical for a 20-something male without children, but it is probably atypical of an educator. I went to public school from K-12 because that's where my parents sent me, I went to a private college because of all the ones that I visited, it was the only one that told me I could broadcast as many sporting events as I wanted on campus radio, and I went to a public grad school because it was the closest to my residence.

For the last five years or so I've wanted to be a high school teacher, but due to a variety of circumstances haven't pursued a job in this realm all that aggressively. That changed in the last few months when I was compelled to seek a job for myself. Being certified in Wisconsin, and there being a tremendously convenient database for public teaching jobs in that state, I must have applied for at least 20. There wasn't a huge database for private school openings, so I limited my applications to three, all of which I heard about through word of mouth.

I got exactly one call back for an interview from the public schools I applied to, and didn't get that job. I got one e-mail rejection without an interview, and one snail mail rejection without an interview. The rest of the places didn't bother getting back to me, even in some cases when I followed up with an e-mail to them.

Meanwhile, the one private school I contacted in Kentucky gave me an interview and offered me a job. The other two private schools, in Wisconsin, would have given me interviews, but I took the KY job first.

There are two ways of looking at this situation, and it pretty much hinges on how attractive of a candidate I might be. Either public schools suck for ignoring me or private schools suck for being interested in me. Which one do you think I'm leaning towards?

I'm fairly well convinced that public schools are turned off by my graduate education, since it puts me in a higher pay scale. Private schools still put me on a higher pay scale, but the non-union status changes the dynamic greatly. It's certainly true that most public schools have a ton of applicants to choose from, and they might find a qualified candidate who starts at a low pay scale. But I wonder if many parents are aware that the criteria that public schools use in hiring are often more about finances than qualification. If so, might those parents be more inclined to send their students to private schools?

13 Comments:

Blogger Heidi said...

wow. you know, i like your blog better than Tim's. i actually read what you write, well, sometimes. i did this time! yeah! go Heidi! go me!

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that is true, but you need to think practically as well as idealistically. I am a parochial school teacher and have seen from the inside out how schools have a limited amount of money to pay their staff. This is true of all schools, whether their funding is from tuition, church collections, or taxes. The real issue is that one of two things need to happen: The qualified and/or experienced teachers need to settle for lower salaries, or the schools need more money in order to hire better teachers.
P.S. I am very happy that you got a position that will probably be your "dream job".
-Fangirl Kitten

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you are a thirty-something with children instead of a twenty-something without children, will you be more likely to send your children to a private/parochial school, or a public school?

12:18 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

Great question anonymous. Though this experience was eye opening, I'd hate to make a sweeping condemnation of all public schools. I'll see what the specific options are available when the time comes.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

Exactly dude. Me thought it was funny when TK stated he had "priced" himself out of teaching H.S. Nobody seemed to pay attention when me pointed out that because of the union mandated demands placed on hiring certain people, a school would rather have an unknowed 22-year-old grad than a proven commodity like TK.

Anonymous, teachers need to settle for lower salaries (while understanding they don't work full-time, that's just a fact) or they need to start paying for a small fraction of their lavious fringe benefits. A teacher can retire at 55, collect their phat pension and also continue working at a different job. I know cause i've worked with retired teachers, some of whom seem to have a i'm smarter than you attitude. I ain't never heard of no teacher starving. Also, ain't it apparent to teachers approximately what they're going to get paid before they decide to go into teaching. Teachers unions and their demands are a big reason we have so many problems with public education and graduation rates.

5:20 PM  
Blogger kevin said...

i almost completely disagree with you on this one nwo. teachers deserve a fat paycheck. think about it, they are guiding this country's future. and i have to say after being one of azor's students money really shouldn't be a door-closer. he honestly was one of if not the best english comp. teachers i've had. i do think that retirement age for teachers could be higher however.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

kev, fine they're guiding our future. Ok, whatever. They also know approximately what they'll be paid as a teacher. To hear teachers and others tell it no amount of money for teachers and education would ever be enough. Go to an annual school board meeting once and they'll spend most of the time crying about not having enough money. Yet, in many cases the school will have a multi-million dollar auditorium, a couple gyms and a pool. Is all that needed? Teachers only teach 8.5 months of the year with a full-time salary and great benefits, along with a union that all but assures them of job security. Also, anytime accountability or standards are placed on teachers they cry. It's real easy and it sounds nice to just say teachers deserve a fat paycheck. But Kev, where exactly should the money come from? Just keep stickin' to the taxpayers, right?

4:44 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

One hard lesson I've learned too many times is sometimes it's just not smart to be cheap. In other words, you get what you pay for.

For example, I bought a bicycle from a garage sale for $20. And I've already sunk four times that amount in repairs. The most recent incident was when I was riding along just fine and dandy -- and half my handlebar literally fell off. As a result, I had to spend $25 for a new handlebar. In addition, I was inconvenienced as my bike was in the shop for a week.

I think the implication for education is clear. If we skimp on it, we're going to get crappy returns. And no one benefits from that.

To put it in economic terms you can understand, nWo, would you rather ante up now for someone's education so they can contribute to society or would you rather build prisons and issue welfare checks when we have an underclass of morons with no marketable job skills? You either pay now or pay later.

8:41 AM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

That's just a dumb argument by the tim show. If we suddenly raise teachers salaries by 50%, please explain to me how teachers will magically become gooder teachers in an instant. So if someone drops out of high school and ends up in prison, taxpayers are to blame? No amount of money or great teachers will make everyone a productive member of society. If you pay teachers a huge salary you're not necessarily going to better teachers, just more people wanting to be teachers.

And here's the main thing. We don't skimp on education the way it is. This country spends insane amounts of money on a per student basis. If money were the solution everyone would be a genius.

How about cutting administrative costs within school districts. Why does every high school need 10 assistant principals and why do principals, superintendents deserve such huge salaries when they have little accountability for producing results.

Some very, very successful people were high school dropouts like Wayne Huizenga, nicholas cage, so maybe it's more about motivation and wanting to succeed. Personally i admit i'm a lazy SOB.

Mark Belling would have a field day with your last post.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Azor said...

There really is a pearl of wisdom in this quote from NwO:

"If you pay teachers a huge salary you're not necessarily going to better teachers, just more people wanting to be teachers"

Back in the middle ages the church got corrupted big time because one of the best professions around was clergyman. I would fear the commitment of teachers who enter the field just to get a high paycheck. I think there are some now who enter the field just for the vacation time. (Which for a good teacher, is compensation for the number of hours put in during the school year).

11:38 AM  
Blogger kevin said...

"Also, anytime accountability or standards are placed on teachers they cry." if the teachers have a problem with being held accountable or to standards then we send 'em packin. after all, i'm simply offering my opinion of deserving teachers getting the deserved compensation in $$$. teacher evaluations are completely necessary. our principle did them in our HS and our teaching staff was great. i think nwo is a product of poor teaching. *not saying that nwo is not smart, simply, unsatisfied with his own teachers*

3:06 PM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

dude kev, you actually think them evaluations meant anything? They ain't. Azor ain't you teached kev to spell (principle)...I think as you get older kev you'll be more apt to agree with what i'm sayin', unless you plan on being a teacher.

3:51 PM  
Blogger kevin said...

im sure my opinions will change over time w/ more experience and knowledge, but for now thats where i stand.

7:17 AM  

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