In August, 2016, The Washington Post featured a story by Valerie Strauss entitled “Think Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough? It’s Worse Than you Think.”
If you’re not a teacher, why should you care?
First and foremost, your children or grandchildren (or nieces or nephews) spend most of their waking hours with teachers during the most formative years of their lives. And in the real world, we’ve learned that you get what you pay for. Underpaid teachers have the responsibility of preparing young people to be as successful as possible when they grow up. It stands to reason that if we expect well-trained and educated students, cutting corners on teacher salaries is counterproductive.
According to the Post story, the salary difference between public school teachers and comparable public workers is bigger than ever. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, average weekly teachers’ wages decreased $30 per week from 1996 to 2015. The article goes on to say, “The erosion of relative teacher wages has fallen more heavily on experienced teachers than on entry-level teachers. The relative wage of the most experienced teachers has steadily deteriorated – from a 1.9% advantage in 1996 to a 17.8% penalty in 2015.”
Bryant has enjoyed excellent growth during the past two decades. Part of the reason why is because the quality of its schools has drawn thousands of people from surrounding communities, including Little Rock. Back in 2015, Bryant voters voted against a millage election designed to keep the schools (and their teachers) among the best available. That millage two years ago was voted down by a total of eight votes among the thousands of votes cast. The result has been a loss of momentum for Bryant’s schools. Yes, they’ve gotten by, but at this time, the lack of new facilities and the resulting overcrowding – in addition to holding back teacher salaries – is a growing problem for a district that has been recognized in the past for its excellence.
The upcoming millage election on March 14 offers an opportunity to Bryant school district voters to get their schools back on track. The long-term consequences of not passing the millage in 2017 include not only hurting the schools and the teachers, but also the greater community whose continued growth depends, in part, on offering great schools.