Education ‘Reformist’ Math and the Teacher Gap

Over at New Economic Perspectives, William Black makes a good observation about the basic arithmetic skills of the educational reformers–specifically Obama’s claim that we will add 100,000 new teachers:

Obama correctly identified a critical need and stated that we must make dramatic changes to meet the need. Are we acting to add 100,000 (net) new teachers in those fields? Obama emphasized in his address that we need to respect teachers. So let’s ask the teachers what is happening. On May 27, 2010, the National Education Association warned.

Without $23 billion from Congress to keep public schools running next fall, 300,000 teachers … and support professionals will lose their jobs.

Everyone knew that the Great Recession would cause a disaster at the state and local government level because states and localities cannot run substantial deficits.

Yes, we did know that. But anyway, here’s the lousy arithmetic (italics mine):

That strategy is premised on hiring 100,000 new teachers. Instead, we are firing up to 300,000 teachers. And Obama’s answer to closing up to a 400,000 teacher gap – essential to the success of his entire strategy – is to encourage students to become teachers. What he doesn’t propose is anything that would give the school districts the money to retain and hire the 400,000 teachers. One of Obama’s applause lines was: “We do big things.” Yes, that is part of what has made America great. Indeed, we do giant things. Obama’s address was his chance to set out the big things he would do. We got instead an aspiration: “we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers….” Budgets are policies made real. If you don’t have a plan to get the money, what you “want” doesn’t happen. Obama isn’t even trying to get the additional money to the states and localities. He’s freezing those kinds of federal expenditures.
Obama also froze federal employees’ salaries, knowing that it will put political pressure on states and localities to freeze their employees’ salaries. How are we going to recruit “100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math” when we’re firing hundreds of thousands of teachers and freezing the salaries and cutting the pensions of those that stay?

Even if we ‘only’ have a 200,000 teacher gap–let’s say for argument’s sake that two-thirds of those fired are not teachers–Black’s argument still stands: how can you increase the total number of teachers when you’re simultaneously promoting policies that eliminate teaching positions?
Maybe it involves some New New Math I haven’t heard about?
Or maybe it’s just more of the same old shit.

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6 Responses to Education ‘Reformist’ Math and the Teacher Gap

  1. Dave X says:

    Maybe if you freeze the budgets, then perhaps the more experienced/more highly paid would exit the system and be replaced with “new” relatively unskilled teachers for lower wages?
    They you get to have your cake and eat it too, but the cake will taste like …..

  2. rork says:

    Maybe it’s an algebra problem.
    The new teachers might be oranges – they’d actually know something about math or science. The removed teachers might be apples – they wouldn’t know much about those subjects, though they may actually teach them now. Hi Ho!
    It felt like you were ignoring that possibility.

  3. Jim Thomerson says:

    Comment in today’s Austin paper about possibly losing 100,000 teachers in Texas alone. I would bet that figure includes some support staff: librarians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors, etc. During WWII, my school bus was driven by a high school student, no library, and I carried my lunch. Good old days, you know.

  4. Samantha Vimes says:

    No, Jim. Unless you mean, your newspaper lies habitually. Janitors and bus drivers are NOT counted as teachers. At best, it includes some professional educators who no longer teach in classrooms, but are the ones who plan academic programs.
    I still want to be a teacher, but this is depressing news.

  5. Robert Bruce says:

    Great, I finally have job security! When the colleges can’t afford me as a $10/actual work hour-one semester contract at a time-adjunct ass’t prof, I can go replace all those fired HS teachers as an adjunct teacher for $2.50.
    The recession has ended!

  6. dean says:

    “During WWII, my school bus was driven by a high school student…”
    Gee, that’s odd: what could many of the able-bodied young adult men have been doing during those years?

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