Opinion
Education Opinion

$125 G’s

By Jessica Shyu — March 06, 2008 1 min read

Whenever I saw a new piece of artwork hung up in the school hall, or when the school purchased a new fleet of Chevy Malibus, I would get petty and think to myself: They could have just added that to my paycheck. I imagine that is so at most schools. A lot of money is spent on stuff that doesn’t necessarily add direct or close-indirect value to student learning-- a lot of money that could have been added to my paycheck.

Now, an up-and-coming New York City charter school is doing just that. No, they’re not adding to my paycheck per se, but they’re scrimping and saving and focusing their funds on stuff that direct has an impact on student learning. They plan to scrimp and save so much, they are holding themselves accountable to paying teachers a whopping $125,000 salary.

“The school will open with seven teachers and 120 students, most of them from low-income Hispanic families. At full capacity, it will have 28 teachers and 480 students. It will have no assistant principals, and only one or two social workers. Its classes will have 30 students. In an inversion of the traditional school hierarchy that is raising eyebrows among school administrators, the principal will start off earning just $90,000. In place of a menu of electives to round out the core curriculum, all students will take music and Latin. Period.

While the notion of raising teacher pay to attract better candidates may seem simple, the issue is at the crux of policy debates rippling through school systems nationwide, over how teachers should be selected, compensated and judged, and whether teacher quality matters more than, say, class size.”

Increasing pay is fabulous, especially in terms of getting high-performing teachers to teach in high-needs areas. Apparently, finding the funds to pay teachers the salary they deserve is possible, and a necessary component to getting talented teachers to stay in the field.

I can’t help but wonder, however, if this is something that can happen at a nationwide scale where not every teacher is great. As with most things in the education world, this school leads us back to the question of: How do we teach all teachers to be great?

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