Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently made a comment that caused the education world to lose their collective minds. He suggested that the 1.1 million kids in New York City schools would be better served if we eliminated half of the 80,000 teachers currently on the payroll, and doubled the pay of the remaining teaching force.
Not surprisingly, the Teachers Union and their surrogates started working overtime to create the impression that this would doom children with massive classroom sizes and inattentive, overworked teachers. They rushed out a claim that class size would increase to 62 children per classroom.
Don’t believe the hype. Basically, Bloomberg is right. As I have written before in this column, we could run the current system with approximately 52,000 teachers, teaching the now standard six classes a day, with an average of 25 kids per class. That would be doing nothing more than they are expected to do now, with about a 40 percent reduction in the teaching force.
How could that be possible? Because there are many thousands of “teachers” on the payroll who aren’t teaching. And it’s not just the ones segregated in rubber rooms, but thousands of the most experienced, qualified teachers with tenure. This was admitted by former Department of Education (DOE) head Joel Klein, when he testified to the city council about proposed layoffs of junior teachers, “we’d be forced to put longer-serving teachers in the classroom, even those who haven’t had a teaching position in years.”
Something about how the DOE runs seems inherently unfair to both the students and taxpayers. Why would be taking teachers out of the classroom, just as they acquire the experience our children need, but keep them on the payroll for years at the highest salary levels?
A vast restructuring of our education system is needed, and Bloomberg just might have the right idea. Take our 40,000 best teachers, give them a 35 percent pay increase, lengthen the school day and add one class a day for a total of seven classes per teacher.
Class size would average about 24 kids, we’d have an enviously professional teaching corp, a deal of real value for the vastly overtaxed taxpayer, and schools that might actually educate our children, preparing them for college-level work and to be competitive in the modern workforce.
So before we write-off Bloomberg’s suggestion, we should give it serious consideration. Our kids deserve the most professional teachers we can provide, and our most professional teachers should be treated with the respect they have earned. This may just be the way to solve many of our education problems.