When I first learned about the QEA Fund sitting in the auditorium of Andrew Jackson High School, one theme was apparent among teachers in the room: Show me the money!
Growing up as a young boy, my teachers would always remind us: “We did not become teachers for the money.”
Councilwoman Glorious Johnson, who recently presented at a community meeting, informed us that when she became a public school teacher in the 1970s, she earned a less than $10,000-a-year salary and her mother earned even less. It was not the money that motivated them but it was the art of wanting to serve and valuing the development of young people. That is why she and her mother opened their home to children to teach them to read, write and count. Forty years of this has led to doctors, teachers, business professionals, and young people who have grown to become trailblazers.
One question I posed to myself after hearing this new discussion surrounding the changing face of public education is: Are educators now motivated by money or are they being pushed in that direction?
As we consider the QEA Fund’s purpose to expand human capital efforts, I believe this is a very legitimate question. Adding this disclaimer, I want our teachers to have as much opportunity as possible to earn more money but all teachers should have a fair, equitable, and real shot at that opportunity.
Investing in people is always a great thing but the district has to take a step back and make sure investing in one group of people does not come at the expense of another group.
Here is where Teach For America Jacksonville comes into play.
TFA will receive $1.75 million from the QEA Fund. In addition to that, DCPS will also provide TFA another $600k for the next three years.
TFA has a significant presence in DTO schools, which is controversial depending on the circle you’re standing in at the moment. Foregoing an experienced teacher dedicated to the work for an inexperienced ‘might not be here next year’ teacher is certainly troubling to me, especially when, concerning secondary schools, the district is positioning these teachers into subject areas that are assessed by the state, which potentially positions these teachers for the $20,000 incentive at a superior rate to non-TFA teachers.
You cannot legitimately ask the community to stop classifying teachers as TFA, non-TFA when you have pre-determined what teachers will go where, and you provide one group more development.
Back to my question: Are educators now motivated by money?
I believe any teacher who took the traditional route to the classroom will tell you money has nothing to do with their choice.
However, there are groups who seek to not only change education systems as we know them but these groups seek to change the teaching profession.
This ‘New Age’ teacher has starved for four years of undergrad and now meets TFA recruiters throwing around monetary bonuses; these New Age teachers use that desire for money to lead them to believe they can save the world before going to medical or law school; and sees a great addition to his/her resumé.
If you were a recent college grad planning to attend law school or medical school soon, would you pass up an an opportunity to earn over $160,000 in three years?
1) Yes. We will always have new teachers entering into the profession but we should ensure that we proportionately distribute those teachers throughout the district.
2) The district must own the teacher recruitment process. We cannot depend on Teach For America because it is not a long-term solution. I know the district has the capacity to build its own recruitment plan to attract quality teachers. The Teacher Residency Program is one example of moving in that direction.
3) The people hired the Board, who in turn hired the Superintendent. While we have talked about QEA, TFA, and whatever acronym one might conceive, we never hired the acronyms. I understand the importance of partnerships but we must be weary about who drives policy. Students are owed loyalty. Parents and taxpayers are owed loyalty. Teachers and principals are owed loyalty.
4) Make the QEA Fund Advisory Board an interactive process by opening the meetings to the public and adding the two School Board members whose schools are impacted. They have a community to answer to. A part of accountability is involvement and communication. Monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly progress reports on these initiatives are also worth it!
5) Stand tall against the education overhaul and do what is right for students no matter what!