Missed Economic Cues in Teaching
Two articles in last Sunday’s Providence Journal — here and here — describe circumstances with which my family is very familiar. With the exception of math and science, teaching jobs are difficult to come by in Rhode Island, yet institutions of higher education continue to churn out graduates.
The initial problem, in my estimation, is that an artificially inflated standard of compensation makes teaching an extremely attractive option even for those without a particular vocation. Jointly with that, tight union control of the system prevents the job market from adjusting appropriately to market realities. That inflated pay remains no matter the number of candidates and no matter the success of the workforce. Consider how painfully slow is movement toward education reforms despite the fact that employers in education really ought to have massive leverage in an environment that finds credentialed teachers working as substitutes sometimes for a decade, and that without promise of a full-time job. Current teachers ought to feel under tremendous pressure to perform and to put in extra effort to prove that they’re better than job seekers who’d jump through hoops to finally land a stable, full-time position doing what they initially set out to do.
Compounding the issue is that the high cost of each teacher — uniform regardless of the position held — translates directly into fewer jobs:
This has been a particularly bleak year for teacher hiring. Across the state, districts are cutting back — eliminating foreign language instruction, music and gifted programs while increasing class size.
So, not only does the employment dynamic create a glut of candidate, but it restricts the number of slots that they can fill. Under such circumstances, it is inevitable that teacher jobs become prone to patronage (as people looking for positions for years on end can testify), and those already ensconced who might otherwise be unable to compete have even greater incentive to push for increased strength of the unions that protect their mediocrity.
We end up, therefore, with an expensive, failing education system that leaves many teachers not even teaching, but bartending and working menial jobs while on the imbalanced roller coaster of multiple towns’ sub lists, even as they strive to build lives and to pay off college debt.