public schools

Seesaw

This week, the New York Times reported that in a sharp reversal, school districts are now scrambling to fill teacher positions after several years of issuing pink slips to teachers: Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble. In fact, they are so desperate to hire teachers that they are hiring some before they have even graduated. This is nuts! I have relatives who are teachers. They are skilled professionals, with years of expensive education including master’s degrees in specialties like information technology in education, as well as experience. One works for a private school, one worked for a public school.

The one who works for a private school has been able to have a long, well-developed career with steady advancement and reasonable job security. The one who worked for a public school system did have tenure, but her job was constantly under threat from incompetent principals and superintendents, the threat of reorganizations that would have eliminated her position, the constant cost-cutting. She finally couldn’t take it any more; she and many other seasoned teacher colleagues have retired in the last two years. She herself was snapped up to do contract work by a mentor at the state department of education, who knows her talent and skill set. Her work with teachers and students in that role has restored her love of teaching and education, now that she is away from the relentless politics of the local public school district.

This makes me crazy. When will this country stop whipsawing schools, teachers and schoolchildren back and forth? It’s impossible for professionals to plan for a skilled career when their job prospects look like a rollercoaster. It’s impossible for the best professionals to do good work in an environment of shifting alliances, inadequate resources and permanent job insecurity.  Public schools deserve better, and so do the huge majority of American children who depend on them for their education. Periodic “nationwide hiring scrambles” are not the answer.