In response to my last post, a friend asked me how I can possibly say that the National Education Association (NEA) facilitated the impending teacher shortage. First, to address the teacher shortage, there are plenty of statistics to support it and it will get continually worse as the babyboomers retire. In 2007, 49% of all teachers were over the age of 50.
To clarify, I never labeled the NEA as the ’cause’ of the teacher shortage, but a group that ‘facilitated’ some of the causes of the shortage. As to how they facilitated it, I have a simple response.
Over the past few decades the NEA has taken an aggressive stance on how poorly educators are paid. This stance has never relented and has always been a centerpiece of their message; even at this hour. Now, I’m not disagreeing with why the NEA began with this message decades ago and championed it for years. However, I am disagreeing with the NEA being less than honest with the great gains that compensation plans for educators have made.
I believe the NEA’s powerful and ever-present message that emphasizes the weakness of compensation plans and professional opportunities for teachers has deterred the best and brightest young Americans from joining the teaching ranks over the past two decades.
As a personal example, in 1994, when I graduated from Johns Hopkins University, I enrolled in the school’s Masters of Art in Teaching program. My goal was to be a teacher. There was not a person in my life, including past teachers, that encouraged me. In fact, many of them outright told me I’d never make it financially on a teacher’s compensation plan.
I have several friends who encountered the very same onslaught of discouragement and deterrence. Those people who influenced me at such a young age really knew nothing about teaching and their compensation except to know about what the NEA lobbyist messages portrayed through so many different mouthpieces; the media, politicians, union representatives, etc.
If I knew then what I know today, it is likely I’d have become a teacher/public educator. What I know today is that I’d be making over 6 figures ($100,000+) because I would have aspired to be an administrator. I would also have 17 years toward a fantastic retirement plan nobody enlightened me to when I was thinking about teaching. If I didn’t become an administrator, I would have had a good teacher’s salary and the ability to significantly augment my income through coaching and athletic summer camps. I could have easily made a good life.
I don’t regret not becoming a teacher because I found another pathway in education through private endeavors (though being so close to retirement isn’t in that equation.) But, I do know friends who left the idea of an education career behind and headed to Wall Street, medical school, law school, etc. What a shame and waste of teaching and education talent.
In one clean statement, I believe the NEA has convinced America that teachers are starving and there is absolutely no pathway to prosperity through a teaching career; therefore, young Americans over the past two decades have kept away from the profession. This has contributed to a very real teacher shortage.