Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Refilling the ranks?

A couple of weeks ago I got to enjoy one of the perks of this job. I serve as counsel for a local teacher's organization - I represent members in termination hearings and in any criminal matters related to their employment.

Every spring the organization holds its annual banquet in which scholarships are awarded to members and their kids and retirees are honored. In a typical year there might be five or six teachers retiring after 20 years or so in the profession. It's a loss to the schools but there are plenty of teachers in the pipeline.

This year was different. With the budgets of every school district being pared with a butcher's knife as the result of budget cuts at the state level, districts are offering lucrative severance packages to teachers with enough years in service. This year there were about 35 members retiring from the profession in this organization alone. Most of the retirees had well over 20 years of experience.

More than 700 years of teaching experience is walking out the door at one time. And that's only one teacher organization in one city. According to the organization's president, people coming into the teaching profession are staying in five years or less on average. As time goes on there will be less institutional memory.

What does that mean to the future of education in this city? In this state? What will happen to our schools when the majority of teachers are only "passing through?"

Attracting people to the profession and keeping them in is going to take a large investment. The failure to make that investment will cost us much more over the long run.

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