Who would you rather perform open-heart surgery, an intern or an experienced cardiologist? Why wouldn’t you choose the same for your education or that of your children? With the Albany session gearing up, it’s lawmakers who will decide how education funds are spent.
The salaries of NYC public school teachers are determined by the years they’ve taught and their level of education. While that may seem logical, it leaves many schools without enough funding to support more experienced staff. What would happen if schools instead were given a stipend for each teacher they needed, and the more experienced professionals received additional remuneration?
Our children deserve experienced teachers with a greater understanding of subject matters and specific knowledge of how to assist students academically and personally. Their classes’ test scores are usually higher and their behavior management tighter. Yet many schools, because of financial woes, hire less-experienced teachers to help balance their budgets.
Another reason to retain experienced teachers is that students need consistency. In some poor schools, nearly 50 percent of teachers entering the field leave in the first five years. Media attention often focuses on teachers who leave, when we should examine what makes them stay.
Some argue that we need newer teachers with fresh ideas. I agree. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of professionals who have dedicated their lives to the field. I’ve taught for 15 years and have witnessed the exodus of young teachers. Those who remain are often underappreciated.
We need strategies to retain qualified pedagogues while giving them the tools to succeed. We could provide sabbaticals every five years instead of just once in a career. It would help prevent teacher burnout and offer them exposure to new resources.
We need to work on ways to increase morale to retain top educators. Studies show a correlation between supportive administrators and teacher satisfaction. While most industries seek experienced workers, our educational system falls flat. Without experienced teachers, schools will become revolving doors that only welcome teachers based on their price and not their value.
Elana Rabinowitz is a writer and teacher in Brooklyn.