The Mississippi Legislature did the right thing last week when it boosted public school teachers’ salaries. Our public schools play a critical role in successful economic development and their perceived inadequacy is an issue that every Mississippian should be concerned with because of this role.
Public school teachers are professionals. Underpaid professionals. The Mississippi Business Journal has long held that to compete in the new global economy our children must be well-taught by the teaching profession’s best. And quite simply, you get what you pay for; whether it’s a new car or an education professional — money matters. Certainly, a devotion to children, a desire to teach — to change the world — are important factors. But a healthy paycheck can make or break it for many of the state’s best when they sit down to plan a career path.
Our teachers deserve to be well-compensated for their long hours, tough working conditions and terrific responsibility. However, paying teachers for what they are worth doesn’t mean across-the-board pay raises ad infinitum. A measure of accountability is necessary to insure that bad teachers aren’t rewarded. And we must remember that paying teachers well is only one factor in a very complex problem as we improve our schools. Other issues to keep in mind include:
• Parental involvement. Parents must participate in their children’s lives at school. Help with homework. Ask about what they learned today. Encourage them to play a sport or an instrument, try out for a play or join a club. And back them up with your support and time.
• Businesses must be pro-family. Businesses will always be focused on the bottom line, but it’s important to remember workers’ roles in the family unit, too.
• Partnerships. Schools, business and industry can work well together. This synergy can impact students’ lives in ways that are invaluable. Adopt a school. Give a tour. Sponsor an event.
Education is an issue that is not going away. Improving it is an ongoing process. Better schools are our future.
Mississippi business should never forget its responsibility to Mississippi education.