To paraphrase an old Neil Diamond song money doesn't sing or dance, but it does talk loudly in our society. Almost all measures of influence, prestige and power in our culture are measured in dollars, whether fairly or not, whether beneficial or not.
Federal legislation (No Child Left Behind), state legislative laws, state board of education regulations, state superintendent of public instruction pronouncements (videotaping of new teachers), local principal rules and all the Rodel Foundation recommendations and other studies done by educational improvement groups will do precious little to address improving the quality of education in our Arizona schools unless we are able to attract quality new teachers into the profession and retain competent teachers already performing positively with our pupils.
Arizona governors Babbitt, Hull and Napolitano (two democrats and one republican) all understood that a quality state education system entices economic development, makes our state an attractive place for investment and helps our young people reach their full potential. Coincidentally, higher paying salaries paid to better-educated Arizonans equates to higher taxes being paid into our state coffers. We can argue until the cows come home whether we are legitimately 49th in the nation in per-pupil funding and whether our dropout rate is miserable or just bad, but the fact that we are in the lower quarter of public school financing and in the overall drop out rate in our country is not acceptable.
Teachers should be paid on par with our engineers; pharmacists; CPAs and city, county, state administrators that add value to our lives in Arizona. The naysayers will continue to state that "we can't throw money at our problems" and they are partially correct. Rather than throwing money at our teacher recruitment and retention problems, we should strategically place our limited resources where they will do the most good, i.e., increase teacher salaries so we are in the upper quarter of education compensation in the country.
What person will want to go into education to teach our youth if we don't pay him or her an attractive wage? What person will want to stay in education if we don't compensate him or her commensurate with their competence and value? After all, teachers participate in our free-market society also, and they are choosing to either not enter education as a career or are leaving the educational profession in alarming numbers, mainly due to sub-standard pay. We seem as a state to want the very best educational opportunities for our students, but we consistently seem unwilling to pay for that excellence.
Money talks, but it can't sing or dance. We really do get what we pay for.
Richard Meszar, Payson