In case you managed to miss this one: Alabama state senator Shadrack McGill has spent the last two weeks trying to explain his way out of a controversial statement about public school teachers’ salaries made at a prayer breakfast. I’m just going to present the entire quote here, because it really is mind-blowing:
“Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you’re paying education, you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education’s going to go up.’ That’s never proven to happen, guys.
“It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.
“To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK?
“And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity.
“If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance.”
Just a sidenote: this was coupled with a tasteful joke, where he refused to answer a question about retirement funds because “we’re going to get raptured out of here before it comes that time for you anyway.” It’s good to know he takes his legislative responsibilities seriously. (McGill has since apologized for the remark.)
There’s so much about this whole idea of “balance” and “calling” that’s ludicrous on its face. Even if they were making slightly more money – even if teachers were making twice as much money – are there really that many people who could gracefully deal with being trapped in a room full of kids all day? And more to the point – can we afford not to raise wages for teachers?
Beginning teacher salaries average about $33,000 nationwide – after 20+ years of service and maybe a master’s degree or two, teachers might work their way up to $56,000, depending on the state they live in. With student loans to pay off, families to raise, and bills and housing costs to pay, that doesn’t go far. Add that to the stress of a job that requires teachers to bring work home with them, and spend their summers and “holidays” writing lesson plans, and you have an environment that’s pushing many teachers, both new and experienced, into changing careers.
McGill has one thing right: it’s only those who are truly dedicated to teaching who are willing to go into education despite the low pay and long hours. But what about all those other passionate people who love working with kids who decide they just can’t live on a teacher’s salary?
McGill has since gone on the record to clarify his remarks – turns out he doesn’t want teachers to live in poverty. He supports modest raises for teachers to meet cost-of-living increases. Which is better than nothing, but still doesn’t change the fact that he believes God wants teachers to prove they’re worthy of working in Alabama’s public schools, in the name of “balance.”
By the way, he supports a 2007 decision to raise local lawmaker’s salaries from $30,710 to $49,5000. To make them less susceptible to bribes, you see. I think supporters of public education everywhere should get in touch with McGill, and start asking him if that’s in line with Biblical principles – how do we know our lawmakers are really called to the position, if they’re not willing to settle for 30 grand a year?
Photo credit: BurningQuestion