What are teachers really worth?
That's the question, as the Senate puts off a vote on $10 billion for state and local governments to prevent teacher layoffs. Senate leadership wanted the bill to be deficit neutral—a line never applied to war funding, where no spending's too great because we're killing for peace. Estimates are that it costs $1 million per soldier per year to keep troops in Afghanistan. But enough of that.
Last week, David Leonhardt at the New York Times cited a study that showed that teachers can make a huge difference in the lives of children as early as kindergarten. The study found that a “standout” kindergarten teacher is probably worth $320,000 a year—that's the value that good teachers can add to the life of their students. When researchers left standardized testing out of the equation, they found many more benefits added by teachers.
Of course, this study plays into the idea that every individual teacher's responsible for the performance of the kids they teach, regardless of socioeconomic status, home life, class-size. Listen to Diane Ravitch on this program for more on that.
But it also brought to the front page of the Times the idea that our teachers, far from being laid off because of Senate politics, should be paid better and given more support.
If we can't find $320,000 a year for kindergarten teachers, perhaps we can at least find a way to keep them from losing their jobs entirely. Scratch that. If we can't find a way to pay living wages for kindergarten teachers, who are we ? And just where in our picture of "national security" do we place our kids?