Teachers don’t get paid enough. This simple statement is something that most people regardless of party will agree with. After all, why shouldn’t those teaching the young and impressionable minds who will lead our country be some of the most highly paid among us? However, in the 21st century, this is still not the case for most if not all teachers. Recently in Los Angeles, teachers have gone on strike and have shut down roughly 900 hundred schools due to the walkout. Although this walkout will be reported on, it will most likely pass in a few days as people move on to larger issues. Unfortunately, teachers giving up their time, energy, and money to create better learning environments will not forget so easily. So, we must ask, is there another way?
The answer is yes, and this answer can be found in different parts of the world such as South Korea. In South Korea, public schooling is mandatory for every student; however, public schools are not very good. In order to remain competitive for colleges and careers, most South Korean students go to “tutors” or night school teachers. These teachers operate on the basis of popularity. Tutors that have the most effective teaching style will have more students signed up to be in their class, and for each student, they are paid a certain amount. This popularity system helps students too because teachers are constantly switching up their styles to benefit the students. Not only that, but this system hugely benefits the tutors. Currently, the highest paid tutor in South Korea makes $4 million dollars a year. This is the equivalent of a professional sports player in the United States. The $30 billion industry of private industry academics in South Korea has led to a huge spike in literacy rates and test scores over the last 60 years. In fact, South Korean students far outstrip American students on every level in the PISA academic test.
Clearly, our current system of education is outdated. As almost every other aspect of modern technology has advanced, schooling has stayed essentially the same since the 19th century. This static nature has hurt students and public school teachers alike. Although the states have continued to spend more money per student the educational system has not improved as drastically as the amount of money spent has. The United States has the 5th highest per-student spending rate on education, but we do not place in the top ten internationally when it comes to reading, science, or math. One reason that the numbers are not improving is due to the presence of a huge emphasis on per-student funds but almost no emphasis on increasing the salary of teachers. Teachers make a huge impact on how well a student learns. This concept is clearly demonstrated in cases like that of James A. Garfield High School. This school had no AP Calculus program and very low performing students before a teacher named Mr. Escalante took his place at the school. However, Mr. Escalante created an AP Calculus program that changed the school’s reputation. Of all Mexican-American students who passed the AP Calculus exam, 26% of them had passed through his class.
One teacher has the potential to impact an entire population, inspire kids, and create a bold new generation. Allowing teachers to thrive in a free market atmosphere where they are able to earn more for outstanding work is the United States’ next step toward fairly paying teachers and giving students from every walk of life the educational opportunities they deserve. We can all agree teachers should be paid more. It’s time to have the conversation about how we get there.
Editor's note: Today marks the second day of the highly anticipated LAUSD strike, in which thousands of educators gathered to strike for more funding towards schools. Yesterday, on the first day of the strike, Los Angeles schools lost approximately $15 million. Today, amidst the striking, protesters and Los Angeles County supervisors devised a preliminary plan to provide about $10 million towards school programs.