Business Officials Urge Higher Teacher Salaries
Washington--Representatives of two Fortune 500 companies told a House Education subcommittee last week that salaries of teachers must be increased if the flow of teachers from schools to industries is to be ebbed.
According to Jerald F. terHorst, director of Washington public affairs for the Ford Motor Company, many secretaries for his firm earn thousands of dollars more per year than does the average beginning teacher.
"I'd say the average starting white-collar worker for Ford can expect to start earning between $18,000 and $20,000, and that's pretty universal throughout the auto industry," said Mr. terHorst, a former political analyst for the Detroit News who served briefly as press secretary to former President Gerald R. Ford. "There are a number of good secretaries in our firm who earn that much."
"That compares to a starting salary of about $12,000 for the average beginning teacher," he continued. "That's less than what we pay many assembly-line workers."
Bernie List, vice president for corporate training and education for Texas Instruments, added that in his firm "college graduates with bachelor of science degrees start somewhere between $20,000 and $22,000, and with a master's degree, it's even higher."
"There's no question that we are not paying enough to attract and keep good teachers," he said. "The problem is especially keen with respect to science and mathematics teachers. If we don't develop a fair and equitable means to provide them with some sort of incentive, they will continue to leave the teaching force to take jobs with industries like Ford and Texas Instruments."
Both Mr. terHorst and Mr. List were members of the National Task Force on Education for Economic Growth, which was created by the Education Commission of the States to examine the quality of education in the nation.
The task force's report--which was released in draft form last month--and the reports of the National Commission on Excellence in Education and the Twentieth Century Fund were the subject of hearings before the Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education.
All three reports noted the failure of American schools to retain qualified teachers and to prepare students adequately for the demands of a high-technology society. (See Education Week, May 4 and 11, 1983.) The industry representatives stated on several occasions during their testimony that they concurred with the reports' conclusions.
"We have to convince students that if they don't take harder, academic courses there will be no jobs for them when they get out of school," said Mr. terHorst. "It is absolutely essential that educational improvement become a high priority at all levels of government. It's a matter of economic survival."
"We believe that all students--not just the college-bound, but even those who plan to become technicians, even housewives--need to be grounded in these subjects if they are to understand the world around them," added Mr. List. "This is a rapidly changing society."
Both Mr. terHorst and Mr. List agreed that there is a role for the federal government to play in educational-improvement efforts.
"You cannot forge a national commitment to education without national direction, mobilization coming from the Congress and the executive branch," Mr. terHorst said.
"Our views are the same," added Mr. List. "The federal government needs to focus a spotlight on the problems of the educational system. It needs to be highlighted much in the same way that we highlighted the need to put a man on the moon."