An intelligent investment: teachers

After slamming the snooze button on our six a.m. alarm, we wake up, perform our daily morning routine, and get in our car, bus or train. This sleep interrupter is education, and it is one of the most important things in our society. It is the very mortar of our democracy and, I dare say, that mortar is crumbling.

The key to a successful government and society is an educated electorate. Next time you wonder why countries like Switzerland (number three) and the Netherlands (number four) lead the list in the highest rates of human development, consider this; they both rank in the top ten educational systems in the world.

Compare that to the United States, a country whose educational system was ranked behind Russia at spot No. fourteen. Should the greatest country on the planet really rank behind Russia? It is a good thing the Cold War was not a “race to the top” for education, otherwise we would have lost. We spend roughly 800 billion dollars a year on education and our neighbor, Canada, spends 65.4 billion dollars a year, yet their education system is ranked at No.7.

Now I know what you are probably saying, “Only 35.4 million people live in Canada and roughly 310 million people live in America.” They are definitely getting more bang for their buck, and I think I know why.

Perhaps because we do not compensate our teachers for the invaluable service they provide to the community. Sure we like to put smart boards in classrooms, but no matter how “smart” a board can be they will never teach our students. Teachers in the United States make only 60% of what college graduates in other fields make. America would not pay investment bankers, who nurture financial assets as poorly, as they do teachers; the magnanimous individuals who nurture the future of our nation.

The average per teacher salary in the United States is 56,383 dollars, which is really a misleading statistic because a handful of states (California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) and the District of Columbia actually do their part to compensate teachers while states like South Dakota only pay teachers on average 39,580 dollars.

And guess what? South Dakota is ranked 49 on educational systems by state, whereas Massachusetts-number one-pays teachers on average 73,129 dollars (second in the country). This problem extends beyond the state level, many of the top countries on the educational system rankings like Finland (No. 5) and Singapore (No. 3) pay their teachers better wages. Obviously there is a correlation here.

Being an educator is one of the most demanding jobs, and unfortunately it is hard to attract quality teachers when we pay them so poorly. How can we expect teachers to want to make an average starting salary of roughly 33 thousand dollars?

How can we expect teachers to teach at failing schools with children who have fallen through the cracks of our broken educational system. If we want to attract the best and brightest we need to actually pay them what they are worth.

Aristotle once said, “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those art of living well.” I hope teachers will one day be compensated for their service to not only the community, but to the nation we are fortunate enough to be a part of.