The good news is the broader economy is starting to stabilize. Weekly initial unemployment claimshave been declining, commercial and residential real estate is stabilizing, interest rates remain low and private sector job growth is improving. By 2012, 4.3 million children born in 2007 will be entering Kindergarten. Demand for elementary teachers will increase; however, public schools may be forced to remain tepid concerning hiring since state budgets will still be lean. Subsequently, educators need to see robust private sector and general economic growth to allow states to start expanding public sector budgets. Once that happens, schools will need to hire teachers to drive down class size enrollments, educate a nationally growing population and replace retired teachers. Stay tuned…Tom Kean knew that he needed to raise the quality of the teaching corps, so, in 1982 - coming out of a recession - he raised starting teacher salaries, which had been dragging behind the rest of the workforce. Young people began looking at teaching as a serious and worthwhile profession.
How times have changed. Is there anyone out there who doesn't think that Christie's antics have pretty much decimating the teaching profession as a viable alternative for bright young people? Leave aside the gutting of pay and benefits; he's demonized teachers to a point where what ever little prestige the job had is pretty much gone. Why would a 20-something even consider working in a school after listening to the vitriol he has lobbed at educators?
It's going to take years to repair this damage, and it's going to take money. This nation cannot afford to sit back and watch its public education system crumble under a regime of neglect and demagoguery. As reformers like Christie have stated over and over again, teachers are the most important part of this system, but I can't think of anyone who has done more to destroy both the morale and financial futures of teachers than Chris Christie. Repairing that damage will not be easy.
And yet, those 4.3 million kids are entering kindergarten next year. They will need to be educated. We will pay a severe price if we neglect their needs.
Will they have a competent, confident, well-paid teaching corps to guide them? Or has Christie done so much damage that our children will suffer for years to come?