Letters To The Editor
Although I have no problem with the general idea of "Chasing Teachers From the Profession" by Judy Solkovits (Commentary, Feb. 10), certain statements are misleading. Although starting teacher salaries are lower than painters' salaries, most painters do not have a 10-step salary schedule, and the average salary in Los Angeles is $24,650. I also suspect that most starting teachers do not support a family of four.
No one ever went into teaching for the money, just as no one goes into the ministry for the money. When I began teaching in 1953, my starting salary was $3,400. The second highest-paid person in my elementary school was the boiler operator. The principal made the most.
I got into education because I like kids and because I felt a need to be of service.
Ms. Solkovits shouldn't take the action of the Los Angeles board personally. Teachers have never been paid adequately for their responsibility in this country. America is the only place in the world where people extol the virtues of education while relegating schoolteachers and administrators to second-class status socially and economically. This seems to be an American tradition. Think back to the Ichabod Cranes of literature and to the image of the wimpy schoolmaster in every movie Western you've ever seen.
As bad as it is for public-school people, most university people earn even less. Check any university placement office for job openings nationwide for assistant or associate professors and you'll see "must have doctorate, starting pay $14,000" over and over again. We value education but never those who provide it.
In America, where status is often stated in terms of income, perhaps more and more people will go to the higher-paying professions. I hope, however, that there are still some folks around who like kids and want to be of service.
Donald D. Kenney Superintendent Southgate Community School District Southgate, Mich.
To the Editor:
Your article on the National Writing Project, "'Teachers Teaching Teachers' Is Key to Writing Project's Success" (Education Week, Jan. 26) was most informative. It mentions that the project has spread from San Francisco to other parts of California. I thought that more information on the California effort might be of interest to your readers.
In the early years of the Bay Area Writing Project, the California State Department of Education sponsored a series of meetings throughout the state publicizing the Berkeley effort and thereby encouraging others to adopt the model established at that campus of the University of California by Jim Gray and his colleagues. The California State University system was interested and participated in these meetings. When Mr. Gray sought help from the National Endowment for the Humanities (neh), the state department of education and the California State University system strongly supported this effort. The University of California system then took a precedent-setting step by using funds received from neh outside that system to fund project sites at campuses of the state university system. The state department encouraged the use of esea Title IV-C funds to enable school districts' participation. Eventually, a concerted effort by those involved resulted in the passage of AB 1254, a statute that when enacted made over $300,000 per year available for writing projects at campuses of the two state systems of four-year higher education.
At this time there are six campuses of the University of California participating in efforts as well as 10 campuses of the California State University system. We now have, as a result of these efforts, The California Writing Project. At least once a year, program managers from the sites meet for purposes of communication and mutual support.
Jim Gray and his colleagues must be credited for having made an enormous contribution to the improvement of the teaching of writing in this state and establishing what appears to be a permanent and growing statewide movement.
W.E. Webster Associate Professor School of Education California State College Bakersfield, Calif.