Monday, May 08, 2017

Graves: Public schools need to be supported, not marginalized

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

A look into the teaching profession in this country is pretty telling. Our teachers are expected to be highly dedicated, overly qualified, and uniquely skilled – capable of managing 30 or more young people while preparing them for productive lives.

Aside from a parent, no one can have a bigger impact on a child than a good teacher. And almost everyone has had a teacher leave a lasting impression on their life. But, somehow, the profession is tremendously underappreciated in this country. That's a disgrace.

Each May, America takes a few days to recognize the people who help mold and educate our children. This year, Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8-12, giving us the opportunity to show educators just how important they are to our communities.

Studies have shown that an exceptional, high-performing teacher can impart a year and a half's worth of learning to a student in just one year. But their compensation doesn’t reflect that. Consider this - if teacher pay had risen in proportion to per-pupil spending since 1970, the average teacher would make more than $120,000 today.

And what’s worse, about half of all public school teachers leave the profession within five years of starting out.

There is no magic fix to our nation’s education system. But attacking teachers and the public schools they work tirelessly to improve is the absolute worst place to start. Public schools need to be supported, not marginalized. And their teachers should be celebrated, not vilified.

Some people in this country think a voucher program is the cure to struggling public schools. In reality, that would do the exact opposite of what we all want.

Vouchers take money from schools that need it most, adding to the financial strain already on so many school districts, and make life more difficult for families that have no other options anywhere nearby.

America’s school system is not perfect. But the teachers who work hard every day in the classroom are one of the best assets we have. Doing everything we can to support them should be a focus all year long, not just during Teacher Appreciation Week.

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