clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

John Florez: More money for education?

While money is important, the reality is public education's governance structure has no accountability and no vision, and it's one in which no one is in charge, neither the governor, state school board or legislators.
While money is important, the reality is public education's governance structure has no accountability and no vision, and it's one in which no one is in charge, neither the governor, state school board or legislators.
Adobe stock photo

More money for education? All the candidates running for governor this year are calling for the same old solution for education — more money. So how’s that working?

Utah has an outdated public education system that is leaderless and oppressive, has no vision, and has a teacher shortage; yet, what politicians do is make quick fixes that are a waste of tax dollars. Last week, the Utah State Board of Education members were wringing their hands trying to figure out why teachers are leaving the profession — 42 percent of new teachers quit within five years of starting, and more than one-third of those who leave the profession do so at the end of their first year.

"At this point, we are just trying to gather information about it to find out as much as we can about the shortage," said David Crandall, chairman of the Utah State Board of Education.

Still trying? In 2005, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) and State Board of Regents released a 156-page report, “The Utah Educator Supply and Demand Study,” concerned about a teacher shortage. Their solution was to have higher education increase enrollment and place more of their students in the state school districts and to have the USOE help educators who left to have families return to the profession. No one seemed to note the most important finding: that 40 percent of those who graduated from Utah teacher colleges never entered the profession, and that another 40 percent left the profession after five years.

In 2005, about 2,777 teachers left the profession. Twenty-four percent of those retired; why did the other 76 percent leave? It seems no bureaucrat or politician thought to ask the front-line teachers, or new teachers, why they left the profession they once believed could change the world.

When I wrote about the 2005 report, I immediately got many comments from front-line teachers. One seasoned teacher wrote, “A student teacher from our school quit last year at Christmas. Why? The students wouldn't work; when she phoned the parents they swore at her, and the principal didn't do an awful lot to back her up. She was the top of the pack as far as student teachers go, so when we had an opening this year we phoned to see if she wouldn't try again at our school. The reply: ‘Thank you, if I ever came back it would be there, but never. I have a job now with great opportunities to grow and a great working environment.’”

Another comment: “Teachers are no longer supported in the classroom by the parents, administrators and the Legislature … teachers are going nonstop with duties that take all of the time and are not even allowed bathroom breaks … Any other workplace that functioned in this manner would be under investigation for violations of work standards.”

They were leaving because of a chaotic, oppressive and stressful working environment that’s changing constantly and not respected.

The state doesn't have a teacher shortage problem; it has a leadership shortage problem. Candidates running for office ignore the front-line teachers and go to the experts who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo by giving the same solutions and more money. While money is important, the reality is public education’s governance structure has no accountability and no vision, and it's one in which no one is in charge, neither the governor, state school board or legislators. So for politicians to keep making quick fixes for what seems to be political gain, and not having the courage to restructure education for today’s digital world, is a waste of money. Most destructive, it neglects our children’s education.

We need to elect leaders who have an understanding of how our world has changed, the courage to restructure public education, offer a vision and invite all citizens to make it a reality — before spending our money.

Utahn John Florez served on the U.S. Senate Labor Committee and as Utah industrial commissioner. His Bush 41 White House appointments included deputy assistant secretary of labor and Commission on Hispanic Education member. jdflorez@comcast.net