Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why is a failed executive "worth" 160 teachers' careers?

I have to hope that we are about to reach a tipping point in this country, where we wake up to what is really going on around us. Ordinary families' bread-and-butter issues don't automatically translate into sensational news segments, but we need to wake up to the fact that families aren't doing as well as they should.

Families did make headlines in the South this week, were a new study revealed that for the first time in four decades, low-income children make up a majority of public school students. The "majority" statistic is what made the news, but if you look at the national map, 49 out of 50 states have a low income student rate of more than 25%.


The national rate is 46%. Unacceptable, any way you slice it.

We also learned this week that fired Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal is receiving $161.5 million in stock options and retirement benefits. This is not a successful CEO; this is a guy whose financial bets on the subprime mortgage market resulted in an $8 billion loss and "risked the entire franchise," according to financial guru Jim Cramer, speaking on The Today Show.

How much is $161 million? A teacher making $40,000 a year, working for 25 years, would earn a million dollars in a lifetime. So we've come to the point where a losing CEO is valued at more than 160 times the LIFETIME EARNINGS of a full-time teacher.

I don't have the solutions to this conundrum but it's clear that our national/economic priorities are totally screwed up. It's time we all take a grown-up look at the future of families. Between the expensive and demanding crunch of child care, and unbelievably expensive elder care, I fear that many families are headed for worsening crisis in the near future.

I'll be writing more about this, but in the meantime I encourage you to read mothers' real-life stories posted this week at MomsRising.org. I also highly recommend the October 23 episode of The Diane Rehm Show talking about long-term health care for seniors. Her expert panel talked about alarming trends including an investment trend in health-care communities that sounded like it could do for nursing homes what subprime mortgages did for the real estate market. (Don't take my word for it; listen to the show.)

This may seem like dry policy but it is really important stuff. 78 million Baby Boomers are headed for their elder years. When the caregiving bomb explodes, the repercussions are going to end up in our laps as mothers, wives and daughters.

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2 Comments:

Blogger ArticulateDad said...

I hear these talk shows about top national priorities, and I so soooooo want to get on the air to say: EDUCATION! I am a PhD, teaching at a highly rated university (average SATs in the 1800s, where tuition tops $15000 a term), as an adjunct.

My contract reads that it is expected I will spend no more than 16-18 hours per week on my job, for which I receive a paltry $1600/month take home pay. (More than a fourth of that goes to pay off student loans). But, see, I have 72 students this term. I teach in the classroom 6 hours per week.

Let's do the math: If I spend 6 hours prepping for class (a laughably short amount of time), that leaves me five minutes per student per week to spend on grading papers and tests, and on student consultations.

FIVE MINUTES! Somehow, I can't bring myself to do that. So I spend more time, much more time, bringing this PhD's hourly wage down somewhere in the range of $15-18, part time, part of the year, with NO benefits (no health insurance, no retirement), and no job security.

It's time to leave behind the failed and farcical "No Child Left Behind" (but shoosh, we won't bother funding it) policies, and actually spend some substantial tax dollars to support education (lower, middle, and higher) in this country. If we can spend $700 billion/year on "defense", you'd think we'd be able to spend a tenth that much on a goal to increase the number and salary of our nation's teachers.

You'd think so, wouldn't you?

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Jeanne said...

Aren't substantial tax dollars already being spent on education in this country?

I don't support "No Child Left Behind" either, but I can't support throwing more money into a system that clearly doesn't work.

It's time to take a serious look at homeschooling IMO.

7:42 PM  

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