Participating in a conference on education and the economy at Southern Methodist University this week, state Education Commissioner Mike Morath said Texas doesn’t have enough dedicated high-quality teachers.
“Have we organized the teaching profession so that it’s the desired destination for all of the highest-performing kids currently in high school? Unfortunately, the answer is not ‘yes’ at anything close to the rate that it needs to be,” he said, according to a report by KERA radio.
Morath said state leaders and the public need to change how they view teachers in order to attract the best and brightest young people into the field.
So, what is Morath doing to make that change? Not much.
Is he using his leadership position as the state’s highest-ranking public education official to promote higher pay and better benefits for Texas teachers? No. As far as I know, he has said nothing publicly about the governor and the Legislature needing to change the fact that the average teacher pay in Texas is about $7,000 below the national average.
Nor have I read anything about the commissioner promoting more affordable health care for teachers and retirees or more state education funding so teachers don’t have to dig deeply into their own pockets for classroom supplies.
Instead, he is promoting more charter schools, most of which pay teachers even less and don’t provide the employment safeguards that teachers in traditional public schools get.
Treating teachers with more respect and professionalism, Morath suggested, will change the “trajectory of the state in a fundamental way, and if we don’t do that, then every other issue that we talk about won’t really matter.”
Words are words, Mr. Commissioner, even from people in high places, and teachers deserve more than that.