I’ve been watching in awe and admiration of the teacher walk-outs around the US as we grapple with the results of decades of underfunding (and a more recent all-out attack) of our public schools.
In my home state of Texas, we can only hope the movement will impact us tangentially, as it is illegal for educators here to strike in any way. Doing so would result in giving up teaching certifications and any retirement benefits already earned. Scary stuff.
For years I’ve been pondering one idea that I believe if implemented, would raise teacher pay, improve quality of life, and better recruit and retain educators. It wouldn’t be easy and popular with everyone, but given the current climate, perhaps this is worth a public debate. So here goes…
I think we should require teachers to work through the summer months and pay them for it.
We wouldn’t need to significantly increase daily rates (though we should consider that too), but instead, we pay teachers for more days.
For example, here in Austin, a first-year teacher works 187 days a year (officially) and makes $47,257. We all know everyone, especially a first-year teacher, puts in more unpaid days anyway.
Add the summer months in, to 230 paid days a year, and that would take the annual salary to $58,123. We could go even higher with days worked which would raise the pay more – in the US, the average employee outside of education works 260 days per year.
At a minimum, that would make 43 additional days where teachers wouldn’t be teaching. That means 43 days where the professional could grow as an educator, contribute back to the field, write and improve lesson plans, create assessments, and prepare for the year ahead.
All of that planning time would mean that during the school year, teachers would have much of the planning already done and at the ready. We could also give back more time to teachers during the school year with fewer meetings, professional development, and paperwork, which could be done on paid days without students.
I might be strung up for this, but I might even propose we pay teachers to work during all or part of fall, winter, and spring breaks too. With the trade-off being significantly less time taken away from them during the instructional days. Let’s give teachers back their nights and weekends! They’ll be better teachers as a result.
But how do we pay for this?
I’m just the blogger here, so I don’t have all the answers. But I do have some thoughts:
First, no longer allow teachers to miss instructional days for professional development. We spend a lot of money on substitute teachers for this – and everyone, especially students, suffers as a result. PD, data days, and collaboration pull-outs should ONLY be on paid days where students aren’t in. Substitutes should be reserved for days when teachers are sick or have personal days.
Second, the real savings could come from allowing the teachers to be the professionals that they truly are. This might be controversial, but if given more time, teachers won’t need anywhere near the number of coaches, facilitators, trainers, and programs that we spend billions of dollars on each year. Certainly, collaboration and EdCamp style PD is important and should be required. But if teachers have the time to create curricula and assessments, we won’t need to pay the giant publishing corporations for them. The expertise is there – we treat teachers as professionals and not robots. We also won’t need the number of non-teaching school and district employees that currently implement and manage these services. With more paid time on their hands, teachers will be just fine.
Won’t this cause more problems than it solves?
For some, maybe. Some teachers won’t like giving up their summers – and some may have more lucrative summer gigs they’d miss out on. Others will be financially burdened even more with childcare costs and will miss the time home with their own kids. I get that. Schools are pretty good at taking care of children, so maybe schools could work something out with their teachers as a benefit with programs to help take care of their kids on non-instructional days.
I’d also suggest a discussion to allow for some teacher paid days to be remote or on their own time and schedule. This would provide teachers perks like much of the professional and business world (and saving schools money on heating/air and other operational costs).
Most agree, teachers are generally overworked and don’t have the spare time they need. By paying teachers for more work days, we can help both with increasing teacher pay and improving the daily life of teachers during the school year – with the ultimate goal of improving the learning experiences of students that teachers serve.
What do you think? Has this been tried before or is it in place somewhere? I’d love to hear about it!