As mentioned in a previous blog post, one of the chief strategies of the education reform movement is to attempt to attract the best college candidates by increasing teacher salary. However, it stands to reason that as publicly paid employees it would be difficult to increase teacher salaries to the point where those salaries could even begin to compete with those offered at other high quality jobs that the so-called ‘best and brightest’ would be qualified for. In addition even if the salaries could be equalized, little can equalize the gap in magnitude and variety of responsibilities associated with the more difficult teaching occupation vs. these other occupational opportunities. Such a reality is especially true for inner-city teaching positions. Therefore, a unique solution is required to increase the attractiveness of a teaching position over other opportunities.
One possibility would be to tap into the element of status. For instance why do most people drive high priced luxury automobiles? Higher gas mileage and equal, if not better, safety features can be found in lower cost automobiles, so those rationalities are out. Clearly the principle driving purpose is status. It feeds the ego to drive around in one of these automobiles largely because a large number of individuals who view the vehicle wish they were driving around in it as well. Unfortunately it is not realistic or practical to give some specialized custom Aston Martin to every teacher that signs a multi-year contract.
However, there may be an even more influential status symbol that can be offered to teachers. The teaching profession could be the first occupation that receives its own specific federal tax rate. For example regardless of income made from their teaching occupation, a public school teacher would be eligible for a rate of only 5%. Tie that specific to the occupation low federal tax rate to tax reform that eliminates deduction loop holes with an additional increase in public school teacher salary by at least 20% to those making below the national average and finally teachers could have something to brag about with respects to their jobs to other professionals. An occupation specific low federal tax rate could be regarded as the ultimate form of status.
Note that a special federal tax rate is only one way to exemplify the importance of teachers and separate them from the rest of the pack. Continuing to rely on ‘teaching as a calling’ as a recruitment strategy has long been outdated and ineffective, yet reformers have yet to move on to provide more substantial benefits and notorieties for teachers. On a side note another important element to consider when making teaching more attractive is to develop more opportunities for collaboration and cooperation among staff. One simple means to encourage this cooperation is to ensure that all teachers instructing in a given subject have the same prep period. Overall more creative ideas need to permeate the educational reform marketplace if effective solutions are going to be found because the simple reality is while teaching maybe one of the more important jobs in a society, the United States is not willing now or seemingly ever willing to treat teaching with that appropriate level of reverence.