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Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Probablility of Surviving to See Your Pension

Pension News

I recently received a copy of the UFT Pension News.  Before I perused its pages, I had to wonder how many current teachers will survive the onslaught against our profession long enough to actually earn a pension.

Probably not a great percentage.  Although teacher attrition rates in the public schools may not be as high as in some "successful" charter schools, the rate is high.  Besides, we seem to be on our way to more charters.  Most teachers today seem to have been in the profession no longer than five years.  When I first became a teacher more than twenty years ago, I was the youngest kid on the block.  Most of my colleagues had at least fifteen to twenty years experience.  That is becoming increasingly rare.

So, why do teachers leave the profession?  Some find it is much harder than they suspected.  Some suffer burnout.  Some lack the stamina or the proper mindset.  Some, doubtless, bow out because they can no longer suffer seeing the profession so demeaned.  The due-process rights of tenure are under attack.  In an age in which administrators are sometimes driven to extremes to maintain the veneer of school success and keep their budget out of the red, ethical teachers may suffer terribly.  Despite years of faithful service, seasoned professionals are micromanaged and over observed.  ATRs are subjected to second-tier due-process.  One may perform one's job religiously, yet one can be crucified for student test scores that may have more to say about society than any individual teacher.

The profession is made the most ugly, perhaps, by the focus upon uniformity and test prep.  Teachers no longer have the same latitude for creativity.  They must subject students to consistent, time-pressured, sometimes very stressful, test prep for Common-Core tests designed to fail a 2/3 majority.  I don't know anyone who signed onto this profession to work under these conditions.

On top of teacher attrition rates due to exodus from the profession, the extreme stress and possible depression generated by all this reform may lead to increased teacher illness and death.  But what the hell!  When TFA recruits are always waiting in the wings, teachers are expendable.

There is a fight here to be waged in the name of public education against those who would privatize and profit.  They favor a compliant, sheepish workforce deprived of its hard-earned rights.  Teachers may become neo-TFA recruits.  They may work for a couple of years, burnout, never gain much experience and move on.  Ultimately, some reformers would replace teachers with cold computers.  After all, if no one "gives a shit" about what you think or feel, a la David Coleman, you might as well be replaced by an inhuman object.  

So, will you be among those surviving to actually claim a teacher's pension?  Only time will tell, but I'm betting even the statisticians would tell you that in this era of educational deformity the probability is low.  

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