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National Teacher Day

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Tomorrow is National Teacher Day . The tagline for the day is "Great teachers make great public schools". The first event of this kind was in 1953, when Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day. There has been an annual celebration since 1985.So, how far have we come with public education since 1953? We've already commented here on the declining literacy levels among US high school students. Consider as well this excerpt from The Teaching Penalty, a publication of the Economic Policy Institute:

Recent trends represent only a small part of a long-run decline in the relative pay of teachers. Using U.S. Census data we show that the pay gap between female public school teachers and comparably educated women–for whom the labor market dramatically changed over the 1960-2000 period–grew by nearly 28 percentage points, from a relative wage advantage of 14.7% in 1960, to a pay disadvantage of 13.2% in 2000. Among all public school teachers the relative wage disadvantage grew almost 20 percentage points over the 1960-2000 period.

In this era of No Child Left Behind, you'd think that teachers and schools would get additional resources to carry out their mission. Instead, school systems are often pressed to meet federal and state mandates with funding that is highly dependent on the local tax base. As a member of the Finance Committee for a small town in Massachusetts, I've had a front row seat at the difficult financial tradeoffs that need to be made to balance flat budgets against the needs of the K-12 students in our town - especially those with special needs that require expensive outside services. Teachers battle through tough collective bargaining to earn modest wage increases.

Most adults have fond memories of the teachers who made an impact in their lives - by exposing them to new ideas, by challenging them to perform at a higher level than they thought possible, or just by being there for counsel. Those of you who are parents of school age children know who are the teachers who've made an impact on them.If you want to say thank you tomorrow, by all means send a card or some flowers. If you want to make a real impact, however, vote locally and nationally for measures that provide these teachers with the resources needed to get the job done. We'll get the workforce we invest in, not the one we wish for.

Happy Teacher Day, Mr. Ramsden, Mr. Perry, Mr. Brady, Mrs. Hennessey, Mrs. Silva, Mr. Reed, Mr. Schwartz and the rest of you unsung public school heroes who've made an impact in my life and those of my children.

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