There is a discussion in America, and it revolves around public vs. private education.
Donald Trump’s election to the presidency pushed the debate to another level, as his choice for education chief, Betsy DeVos, is a voice for charter schools, which represent the private approach to educating our kids.
This debate is more important than arguing about who stands and who takes a knee during the National Anthem. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to advice offered by Confucius:
“If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years, plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years, educate children.”
Confucius was born in 551 BC, so you can see that education has been a matter of some importance for quite a few years — and it will not get any less important.
What Confucius is telling us in no uncertain terms is that when it comes to educating our children, we should make wise choices on how we spend our tax dollars.
That message seems have been lost in this modern-day debate over education. Instead, the discussion seems to have devolved into a face-off between politicians and teachers unions in a battle for control.
We bring this up because next Thursday, Oct. 5, is World Teachers Day, the purpose of which since the early 1990s is to help generate support for school teachers.
Sounds simple enough, right? Not so much. Many states are in the midst of education crises mostly self-generated because politicians either have never read the above-cited Confucius advice, or have chosen to ignore it.
The personal-finance website WalletHub has done another fine job of collating disparate data, and come up with a ranking system of the best and worst states in America when it comes to teachers and education.
It will come as no surprise to Californians that, despite hefty spending on education, this state falls roughly in the middle of the pack. California is 19th best overall, a respectable sixth best with regard to teacher opportunity and competition for good jobs, but a miserable 42nd when it comes to academic opportunities and work environment.
One of the problems is pay. California teachers rank 43rd out of 50 states for average starting salary. Money may not be what motivates idealistic young teachers, but salary levels help attract the best and brightest, and keep them on the job. That’s true in any salary-based career.
Another big problem for California is a burdensome teacher/pupil ratio, in which this state ranks dead last.
One of California’s better showings is in average annual salary for teachers overall — 13th place.
By the way, the top-ranked state is New York. In fact, the Northeastern states are all up there in the rankings. Arizona is ranked worst in the nation, in case you’re considering giving up your life in our Central Coast paradise for a desert experience. Our advice — if you have school-age kids, avoid the desert Southwest.
California’s budgeting for public education has shown dramatic increases in recent years, which in the business world would translate to higher “profits.” But that has not been the case with academic performance, which suggests that California’s decision makers need to change their thinking about how school money is spent. The Trump administration seems to believe charter schools are the answer, but performance outcome data doesn’t support that belief.
Here’s another piece of wisdom from Confucius: “Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
The answers are there. We just have to find them.