Missing the point in Happy Valley

Utah’s Cache Valley is home to the city of Logan, and to Utah State University, the land-grant college for the state. For several humorous reasons, some of them good, the place sometimes is called Happy Valley.

Small county in a beautiful setting + good university with a good school of education = good conditions for teacher recruiting. Logan’s schools have been very good over the years, in academics and all forms of competition.

As we discovered with the voucher fiasco in 2007, Utah’s education situation is not completely happy any more. Classrooms are crowded, teachers are overworked, and for the first time since the Mormon pioneers first settled Utah, educational achievement is declining.

The editorial board at Logan’s Herald-Journal noticed the problems. It’s tough to recruit teachers. If Milton Friedman were alive, we’d look for a classic free-market economics solution, something like raising teacher pay to stop the exodus from the profession.

Milton Friedman is dead. His ghost doesn’t seem to have much clout in Logan, Utah, either. What does the Herald-Journal propose? Loosen standards, look for uncertified people to teach.

When people leave the job they worked hard to earn certification for, what will happen with people who are not certified and are untrained in classroom management?

Why not just raise teacher pay, and attract more well-trained teachers?

Let me ask the key question, more slowly this time so I’m sure it’s caught: Why not just raise teacher pay?

Fishing for teachers? Bait the hook with money.

(Full Herald-Journal opinion below the fold.)

Expanding the definition of teacher


Sunday, January 13, 2008 2:52 AM CST

Fifteen years ago it seemed unlikely that Cache Valley would ever have to scramble to find school teachers.

With USU’s College of Education bursting at the seams with eager students and producing plenty of graduates who were more than happy to stay right here if they could, the problem then was finding a job opening.

Over the past decade or so, a rapidly growing number of new pupils has increased the number of teaching positions to be filled, and a steady exodus of instructors has left Utah short of qualified teachers. Outgoing teachers point to low salaries, increased governmental requirements and a general lack of appreciation for what they do as reasons for leaving.

Gov. Jon Huntsman has promised to increase pay for teachers, which should somewhat alleviate the problem, but given the state’s continuing growth, demand for teachers is only going to go up. School districts are considering altering schedules to allow the existing pool of educators to work year-round, thus teaching more students with the same number of teachers.

Perhaps there’s another solution: Recruiting teachers from the community. This might would [sic] require overlooking certain educational requirements, but which is more important in the classroom — years of education or a personality that fits the job? If school districts would pay for such applicants to pursue a degree after they’re hired, they might be able to lure that stay-at-home mom who’s great with kids or the guy selling real estate who’s looking for a meaningful new career.

The teachers are out there. We just have to find them.

Bait the hook with money. Bait the hook with money.

2 Responses to Missing the point in Happy Valley

  1. penelope says:

    “Why not just raise teacher pay?”

    Because for some reason no one in this country wants to admit that teachers, just like all other people, will take jobs based on pay. It’s ok to pay CEOs ridiculous salaries because if you don’t they’ll work at another country, but teachers? Nope.

    Anyway, you’re right, of course.


  2. eyeingtenure says:

    That editorial is the dumbest thing I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for the bitter laugh.


    Bait the hook with money, indeed. If you want better teachers, dig deep and dig soon.



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