Favorite

Show them the money 

An op-ed columnist for the New York Times made the most fascinating point last week. He said that people are more likely to take a job if you offer them more money. Actually, the writer, Matt Miller, was recommending dramatic salary increases for public school teachers who work in poor areas, and he used some sophisticated data and policy knowledge to make his case. But in the end, his argument boiled down to a simple truth all of us can understand. Even some of the most idealistic and dedicated young teachers I know — each one unquestionably smart and talented — decided to leave Arkansas for a state that pays its teachers better. Embarrassingly, none of them had to go very far. Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, and other states in our region are luring away our teachers with the world’s most reliable bait. Still, there is always passionate resistance to the idea of raising teacher salaries in Arkansas. They only work nine months of the year, some say. Arkansas has a lower cost of living, others are quick to mention. Both contentions are true, of course, but they are irrelevant in the context of our competition with other states. The best teachers are almost always going to go where they can make the most money. We can either try to bring them here by offering attractive salaries, or we can continue to lose them because we are too jealous to give them a comfortable lifestyle. But wouldn’t it be nice if teaching were a profession that inspired jealousy? A nice salary and summers off might convince our brightest minds to choose a career in teaching instead of business, law or medicine. Most surprising is that conservatives consistently reject this logic. One would think they would instinctively appreciate that the competition for skilled workers in any free-market industry is fierce, and the best talent follows the most generous compensation. We are often told that wealthy people and corporations won’t move to Arkansas — and that the ones already here might leave at any moment — because we have the audacity to impose an income tax. And our voters were encouraged to approve Amendment 2 last year, giving the state authority to grant over $200 million in bonds to build infrastructure for companies that put facilities here, because Arkansas would not be able to land the projects otherwise. “Without Amendment 2, these high-paying jobs will continue to pass us by,” Jim Pickens, the state’s former top economic development official, told the Jacksonville Leader. The article added, “He said the amendment gives Arkansas the same tools to compete that Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi already have.” In a similar way, higher teacher salaries would prevent the best teachers from passing us by. And if we can spend over $200 million to land an auto plant that will employ a few hundred people, why can’t we spend at least that much to attract the best people to teach our kids statewide? Does anyone underestimate the value of a great teacher? Especially in poor and undereducated areas, a teacher may be the only person able to instill in children the value and importance of learning. By challenging, enlightening and mentoring his or her students, a great teacher can literally change lives and, by extension, whole communities. From an economic development standpoint, a well-educated workforce would be our most powerful asset in the coming decades as the nation makes the transition from an industrial to an information-based economy. That means we should try to do whatever it takes to compete — the more dramatic, the better. It’s a simple equation: We need to get better teachers to improve our state’s education system, and we know that increasing their salaries would help us achieve that goal. If we can find the money for tax cuts and corporate subsidies, we can find the money for this far more important public interest. Unless, of course, you think things are just fine the way they are, and that the only people who make decisions on the basis of dollars and cents are rich people and CEOs.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Warwick Sabin

  • Helena's disappearing buildings

    Preservationists hope to slow demolitions.
    • Mar 22, 2007
  • Trailers headed to Dumas

    Gov. Mike Beebe issued the following statement earlier today: Although this decision by FEMA to deny emergency funds to Desha County defies common sense, Arkansas will take care of its own people.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • Youth Ranch robbed, vandalized

    According to a press release we just received: The Donald W. Reynolds Campus of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches (The Ranch) located near Fort Smith was vandalized overnight Thursday.  Items stolen during the break-in included all of the children’s saddles, food, tools and supplies from The Ranch’s carpentry shop and all equipment from its auto shop.  An investigation is underway with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.
  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

Latest in Warwick Sabin

  • Trickle-up theory

    Through thick and thin, there has always been one group of dedicated Americans whose support for President George W. Bush has been unwavering: The wealthy.
    • Mar 8, 2007
  • Time to go

    Tough questions face us in Iraq and it's time to confront them directly.
    • Mar 1, 2007
  • Plugged in

    One reason why the South remained solidly Democratic during the mid-20th century was the enduring gratitude to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who brought electricity to the poor, rural parts of the region. According to one historical account, “Althou
    • Feb 22, 2007
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Viewed

  • Forget the hairdo

    As the 2018 races begin to heat up, we see more and more women running for office. And as more women run, we will see more of the seemingly endless critiques of their appearances.
  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • O'Reilly should run for president. He's already cleared one major hurdle by proving he's a…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Intracity tourism

    • I love being a tourist in my own backyard. One of the advantages of being…

    • on April 27, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation