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Reasons Aplenty to Boost Investment in Teaching Profession

At a news conference today releasing the Fall 2011 issue of UConn's "CT Economy," contributer and CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine said "Unfortunately, teachers are feeling the brunt of our economic problems, like everyone else in the middle class."

Continued investment and public support for public schools stimulate economic prosperity, promote student achievement, and improve home values. That was the message delivered by a leading Connecticut economist and CEA’s executive director today.

The fall issue of The Connecticut Economy, the University of Connecticut Quarterly Review, released today at a news conference at the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), focuses on education and the economy.

Steven Lanza, executive editor of the quarterly journal, said education is as important as economic development or job programs.

“Education can help bring back jobs and make Connecticut more competitive.”

The average unemployment rate in the U.S. and Connecticut is around 9 percent, but it’s allocated unequally among different educational degree holders.

“From those with less than a high school diploma to those with a professional degree, you can see unemployment is much higher,” said Lanza. “Those with less education have the highest unemployment rates —15 percent for those without a high school diploma; those with professional degrees, have unemployment rates at 1 percent, 2 percent or 3 percent, which are really quite low.”

Upgrade the teaching profession

Executive editor of the quarterly journal Steven Lanza told his audience at CEA that education is as important as economic development or job programs.

CEA wants all children to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to prosper. CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine said, “Teachers know what’s needed to take on the challenges we face. Finland, for example, reduced its achievement gap through a comprehensive approach that included a major upgrade of the teaching profession. In other nations the norm is to provide teachers with continuous feedback, time to collaborate, support, mentoring, and professional respect. In an era of rising standards and increased workloads, we owe our own teachers nothing less.”

Finnish teachers spend nearly half their in-school time in professional development and collaborative planning. Our system, in contrast, too often struggles to attract and retain high-quality teachers, according to Loftus Levine.

In Connecticut, urban school districts have become teacher training grounds for advantaged school districts. An estimated 20 percent of urban district teachers leave every year, oftentimes for higher-paying jobs in advantaged communities.

“I’ve been out on a listening tour across the state, and what I’m hearing is that teachers are working harder than ever against the odds, and they want to do an even better job to help our young people succeed,” said Loftus Levine.

The CEA Executive Director, who wrote the back page article for the economic journal, says teachers know what’s needed to take on the challenges we face, but they aren’t getting the respect other professionals receive.

“Teachers are being more and more demoralized. The tenor at the bargaining table is not good. Unfortunately, teachers are feeling the brunt of our economic problems, like everyone else in the middle class.”

What can we do?

Raise the status of the teaching profession in the U.S.

“It’s the connection between how you select, train, display and regard teachers and how those things translate into more effective teaching and learning,” said Loftus Levine.

CEA supports a Professional Standards Board to elevate the teaching profession to a status reflective of the training and commitment of its members, particularly in the area of certification.

Teacher salaries

An article and graph in the quarterly journal points to the variation of teacher salaries and how they play out across towns in Connecticut. Not surprisingly, average elementary school teacher salaries are highest in towns that can most afford them.

“Economists have known for a long time that good schools do translate into more expensive homes. And that residents are more than willing to pay more money in local taxes in order to live a community where they can send their kids to better schools,” said Lanza.

Click here for a complete copy of The Connecticut Economy.