The public school system: why can't throwing money at the problem solve it?

I was going to title this thread “would you do your job better if you were paid more?” But then my train of thought led me to think that this is a throwing-money-at-it solution. That smacks at a great debate, but since I don’t have any hard data & am just asking for opinions, I felt better putting this into IMHO.

Two careers that are often sited as being high-stress & high-demand but generally low-paying: teachers & police. And the occupation that actually caused me to start this thread: janitor. I am always grateful when I walk into the bathroom at work because I have never seen it anything other than spic-and-span clean, and it always has a lemony-fresh scent no matter what time of day. I commented about this to my supervisor and he said it’s because the company has its own cleaning staff that understands what is expected of them, and they pay them damn well.

Flash back to my last employer: a money grubbing company who contracted with an outside agency to have a probable minimum wage high school student come around every three days and wipe down our bathroom with an oily rag.

This struck me as a great idea. Reward people in nasty, dirty jobs with good pay as long as they really bust their butts & do a dynamite job, and they’ll keep doing said dynamite job.

Now would this approach work with teachers & police? I have often heard that really good teachers don’t stay in teaching very long because they can make much better money actually doing what they teach. This was exactly true in my case. I taught at a technical college and always received outstanding reviews by the students when surveys were collected after the semester finals. But I just couldn’t stay there because of the low pay. I moved into the industry, doing hands-on what I used to teach, and got an instant doubling of my income.

Do you sometimes find yourself saying “they don’t pay me enough to do THAT!” when confronted with a situation that, back in the back of your mind you think that you probably should take care of but end up ignoring it because it’s not explicitly written into your job description?

Here in the nations crapitol I get the feeling that some cops just don’t give a damn. I see them cruise past me when it’s obvious that some motorist has nearly run me down in a crosswalk, and I see them do nothing while driving right behind several cars who have failed to stop at a flashing red light. I wonder if they just don’t feel like getting out of their warm cruiser at three o’clock on a cold rainy the morning to risk getting shot at over a $50 ticket. Not for $20K a year, anyway.

IMHO, if we paid certain people more and could hold them accountable for their job performance, they would do a much better job. Who would object to being held accountable for their job performance as long as they were up for a $10K raise? And wouldn’t the higher salary subsequently attract better job applicants, ultimately motivating children to be better achievers if they really want to be policemen when they grow up?

What say you?

[Thread title edited at OP request]

[Edited by TVeblen on 03-13-2001 at 01:23 AM]

Unless one is doing a job one loves, one is liable to slack however one can get away with it, no matter how much one gets paid.

The salary, and the need for a job, are the two most efficient ways to choose a lousy, stressful, and unfulfilling job, and people in such jobs are at high risk of being unpleasant and lazy at work.

Choosing to work where one’s skills and fields of interest are made valuable is the surest way to guarantee good work.

I agree with you. I’ve never understood how a teacher can be paid barely above minimum wage, when an accountant can make six figures. I was looking for a career change a few years ago, and went the cop route. I applied to Vegas and Reno. I passed requirements and was accepted to join Reno P.D. but I turned it down after finding out that the new cops would be assigned to “gang control” with a starting salary of about 25K. Topped out salary was 36K. I wasn’t about to take a serious pay cut to spend my nights on a gang task force, in a rather expensive COL area. Vegas on the other hand was offering over twice the starting salary. An injury prevented me from completing the process. But it was interesting to note that the applicant list for 75 openings in Reno was a little over 100. The number of applicants for the 60 openings in Vegas was over 2000 (granted I’m sure a lot of them wanted to simply work in Vegas, but half the applicants were already Vegas residents). Some people in our area of St. Louis are crying about how much firefighters get paid, thinking it’s outrageous when teachers and cops get paid much less. Nobody actually gets paid what they are worth. If you are paid 20,000, then your company feels you are bringing in at least 20,001 for them. I think you just have to find a happy medium where you enjoy your work, and tolerate the pay. If you don’t like your job, money is irrelevant. If you like what you do, the money is a bonus and raises will always be appreciated, and I think will encourage most people to do even better cuz they enjoy their work even more. It’s also about priorities. People view fireman as life and material savers, while viewing cops as just people that will give them tickets, costing them even more money. Few people dislike fireman, while few people appreciate a cop, those civil righs breakers that they are. As far as teachers, people without kids don’t feel they should pay for schools and salaries. A lot of people with kids feel that the teacher is simply a “babysitter” cuz their kid is soooooo smart on his own, while others think that their kid is getting D’s cuz the teacher isn’t doing a better job. The big craze now is not giving teachers more money, but spending millions on computers for elementary kids. I won’t even get started on my views of computers in schools.

Nobody’s “worth” over $10K a year, no matter how hard they work. Everyone in the US is just lucky. Go to a place where $10K is a lot, and then tell me about how hard anyone here works by comparison.

I’m with you all the way–just tell me how to hold folks so accountable. I am a retail manager, and we could pay our staff more money if it was easy to get rid of folks who can’t cut the mustard. But it is not. If it were easier to fire people for poor performance, I’d be a lot happier–and so would many of my employees.

Actually, I’d like to get you started. I hadn’t thought of that issue, and I’m a teacher. Tell me more.

Hmm, guess this is a hijack. Maybe start a new thread on the subject?

I have many problems. You can make me go away by throwing money at me. Not coins though. They hurt.
I now return you to your serious debate, already in progress.

I love my job, and am unfortunately going to have to leave it soon for another. It’s a low-level position, and there’s just no room for advancement. So if my employers are reading this, please throw more money at me.

I’d join that thread!

I am held to a very high level of accountability at my job. We are graded annually on a pass/fail basis. If they suddenly fired all of us and replaced us with highschool students at half the pay, [the company] should be prepared for a 10-fold increase in the general level of knuckle-headdedness & mistakes. I guess this is just another way of saying that it’s okay to expect a high level of compitency from somebody that you pay a large salary to, and that is just a restatement of the OP.
How to have accountability: Every company needs to have a standard operating proceedures (SOP) guideline. If a complaint comes in, it should be possible to look into a SOP book and determine exactly who dropped the ball.

Easier said than done I suppose, but let’s give it a try anyway.

I taught for many years and it was not uncommon for the training director or a member of his board to stop by the class unannounced and watch a part of my lecture. And for the life of me, I can’t imagine why any teacher would oppose this, unless they were secretly incompitent and afraid of being discovered. Am I being naïve in assuming that the vast majority of teachers know their subject reasonably well?

There will be a camera in each classroom. Teachers would be put on notice that once per month or so they would be viewed and critiqued by a panel of knowledgable & concerned citizens (hereinafter, the “Panel”). A side benifit of having cameras installed is that the students would think they were being watched and we might have a little less classroom unrest. I’m talking about class clowns & bullies mainly here, but there are probably more benifits.

How the Panel works:

Panel members would be selected by the general public in accordance with state guidelines. We could C&P the guidelines from the jury duty selection computer, for starters. Laws could be passed to make panel participation a mandatory civic duty unless you could show severe hardship or a handicap would prevent you from serving. A term will be one month long and term limits would be instituted preventing anybody from serving on the panel two times consecutively.

Having the basic framework in place, let’s take this on a dry run. Suppose the panel reviews a class that I teach and during my lecture, is stunned to hear that I instruct my pupils that pi = 3. The panel would be understandably shocked to hear me say such a thing, and my critique would rightfully chastise me.

Maybe the panel would even fire off an email to me thustly:

Of course we need to set up some checks & balances. What if two people on the panel had a personal grudge against me? Fear not! The remaining four panelists would provide balance. Also, a single negative review, even if it were the majority opinion of the Panel, would not mean punishment for a teacher because it would take two, maybe three months worth of unsatisfactory reviews (amd therefore, two or three different Panels) to result in some kind of action taken against the teacher. And since the same people can’t serve on the panel two times in a row, we’re talking about a fairly broad consensus of agreement needed before a teacher is materially reprimanded.

Why would teachers be against a monitoring system like this (or some other system) if they were rewarded with the $40k and $50k salaries that [many of them] deserve?

Veerying dangerously into GD territory here, but IMO “you can’t make the problem go away by throwing money at it” is a Republican myth. Lack of qualified teachers in the school? Raise those damn salaries and attract some! Ditto with textbook shortages, school infrastructure problems, and underfunded districts.

Sure, you can’t use money to solve personal emotional problems like the death of a loved one, but given that our society runs on money, I think a lot of problems can be solved by throwing more money at it…

Moderator’s note:

I think this topic has successfully graduated to Great Debates.

for IMHO


It isn’t a myth created by those evil Republicans. Not all problems with our school systems would simply go away with more money. How that money is spent is just as important as how much is spent. If you have some district with a large amount of corruption, <Dallas cough cough> or imcompetance, or a lack of students and parents who give a damn then throwing more money at the problem.

My attitude used to be that I wasn’t willing to give teachers a pay raise. I came to realize that it was the wrong attitude to take because the problem is bigger then a lack or qualified teachers or bad ones. The problem is that I’m not willing to increase the educational budgets until they’re willing to show me exactly how the money is going to be spent.

If your only tool is a hammer then ever problem looks like a nail.

rjung wrote

Ah: First, Republican’s are stupid, and now they create myths. I’m waiting anxiously for your next pearl.

The argument against throwing money at teachers to get a better education system goes like this:

a) Private school teachers make less than public school teachers.
b) A private school education is generally considered a better quality education.
a+b) something’s stinky in Denmark.

In general, I am in favor of spending more on education. But more money is not the only answer, or even the best answer. Wise spending always beats more spending, no matter what you’re buying.

If you make all the schools private and give parents vouchers then the good schools will grow and bad ones close.

Perhaps you could pay teachers a bonus dependant on pupil progress in sat tests or something.

re: police pay vs accountants etc.

see supply versus demand…

Employers generally pay the least they can get away with, over here in the UK the government have been underpaying teachers and now wonder why there is a shortage ( people leaving but no one joining ! ).

Fact is you can either have higher taxes and better public services or low ones and bad services.

In the modern political arena no one is willing to admit this.

or as bush would say ’ i will cut taxes and increase spending !’

*Originally posted by Bill H. *
**rjung wrote

Ah: First, Republican’s are stupid, and now they create myths. I’m waiting anxiously for your next pearl.**/


I can’t help it if they present such easy targets. :slight_smile:

Considering that private schools
(1) Generally do not have supply shortages,
(2) Can select which students they accept,
(3) Hi Opal!, and
(4) Are often not required to measure the quality of their teaching against standard metrics,

…I would expect that a private school education – with all the advantages listed above – would appear to be better off than a public school education. The idea that “private schools are better through the magic of free markets” strikes me as painfully naive.

No disagreement from me here. I just find that too many Conservative-leaning (there’s that word again! :)) education reform advocates are always pushing for vouchers, with figures that inevitably end up giving less money to the schools…

What say? Are you saying there aren’t enough police on the streets because there isn’t a demand for them? Or that the salary is low because there isn’t a demand for them?

I have a hard time applying the laws of supply & demand to salaries without getting a knot in my brain.

Bill H say’s;

Are you sure, Bill?
My daughter works at a private school (cafeteria, not teacher), and she say’s that her employer routinely steals teachers and other staff from public schools by offering better pay and benefits.

I have more to say about this…but my brain is a bit beat right now. A brief preview:

A New York City public high school teacher with a full doctorate in a given subject and seven or more years teaching experience makes the whopping, inordinately large salary of $48,000 a year. Now let’s read that as a full number–a FULL Ph.D with almost a decade’s worth of experience makes forty eight thousand dollars a year. Those who enter the field with less than a doctorate make, of course, substantially less money.

What this says is two things. First, it says that the system you work for doesn’t value the work you put into getting a degree in the first place. (It’s also interesting to note that now you’re required to hold an advanced degree before you begin teaching here.) It also says that if you hold an graduate degree in a discipline and hope to make a decent living, teaching public school ISN’T the place to go.

I’ll be fair. I consider forty eight thousand dollars a lot of money–for ONE person. There are ways that one could make that money work, after years of saving and careful investments. It’s a bit ridiculous, however, to assume that 48K can stretch to cover the needs of a family.
(In case you’re wondering, after twenty or so years that number only rises about fifteen thousand dollars or so. In other words, it will take you thirty years of teaching in a public school to make the same money you’d make at a private school in one year, or in a public school in a different area of your state.)

Throwing money at the problem doesn’t fix it. If you want to say that teachers are already fairly compensated, that’s fine. You would then have to examine other aspects of education that could be helped by “throwing money” but aren’t. I’m thinking in particular of eighty-five year old school buildings with asbestos and coal burners, of classrooms with no ceilings, etc. As much as I hate the media sometimes, the pictures you may have seen of public school buildings here aren’t far from the truth. What generally ends up happening when money is thrown is that it falls directly into the pockets of people who shouldn’t have seen that money to begin with.

That’s my two cents so far. :slight_smile:

To answer the question earlier by drewbert, and yes, this would be a decent new thread btw, I personally think that computers have no place in schools, at least in any class below grade 11. Computers can be learned in secondary school. Primary focus of elementary school and high school should be basics. Not puters, not foreign languages, etc. They should be learning how to spell, write half coherently, (god knows I could have used more english classes), more math, more social studies/civics to learn how/why the government works so that they have a clue why they are voting later besides what kind of underwear is being worn. Enough babbling for now. This should be continued in another thread. I would like to hear from teachers actually, to see if maybe I’m just too old fashioned already.