Other Views

A business proposal to solve SC teacher shortage problem

South Carolina faces the problem of a shrinking corps of new teachers, while many are leaving the profession
South Carolina faces the problem of a shrinking corps of new teachers, while many are leaving the profession

My thoughts to ponder as an old manufacturer and financial engineer.

Common sense says that public education is not working.

U.S. academic achievement seriously lags that of the industrial world.

Job opportunities for low achievers are extremely limited.

Teachers are leaving the profession.

Costs are too high.

Employers are begging for trained workers.

So this old manufacturer and financial engineer looks around the room. My Quality Control manager would say:

▪  The key to quality is teachers.

▪  Upgrade teaching and then academic performance and workforce issues will improve.

▪  Teachers are our JOB No. 1.

My Human Resources manager would say:

▪  Teachers are our “first responders” and our “boots on the ground.”

▪  They are disheartened by the high cost of living, having to take second jobs, and find meaningful summer employment.

▪  Hiring is difficult; turnover is too high; and all too many move on.

▪  The solution lies in paying them as professionals and expecting more.

My manufacturing manager would indignantly opine:

▪  We need more facilities, but they are costly.

▪  Gaining public support for more and more underutilized facilities is challenging.

▪  What do you expect if you are only open for business part-time?

▪  The rest of the world works full-time to remain competitive.

What say you, my Bean Counter?

▪  Our variable cost is primarily teachers and the turnover is expensive.

▪  We have high fixed costs, including facilities, non-teaching staff, teacher benefits, running the air conditioning system year round, etc.

▪  Our cost structure is upside down, with high costs being spread over too many underutilized production units.

So, we have three problems to solve:

▪  Professional teachers are being treated as part-time workers.

▪  All too many low achievers are leaving school with limited prospects for a satisfying life.

▪  Facilities and the cost structure are underutilized.

The solution is to operate year-round:

Let’s employ teachers year-round and pay them as professionals.

We will need fewer schools.

Students will be off in either the summer, fall, winter, or spring.

What say you, my manufacturing manager?

▪  Now, you’re thinking like a manufacturer.

▪  We’ll need a quarter fewer schools, teachers, and staff.

▪  We can close inefficient schools and will not need many new ones for many years.

▪  Quality Control is on board; there are some challenges, but we can make it work.

How about the numbers, Bean Counter?

▪  With a quarter fewer teachers, we can increase their salaries by 40 percent, which HR says is competitive.

▪  Total cost would decrease by at least 10 percent, even with teacher increases.

What say you, my Outside Consultant?

▪  Education is the last vestige of the agriculture age.

▪  Perception is reality and the people think the costs are too high.

▪  It will work but needs significant study, so here is my proposal ...

So, what do I think about the students?

▪  Require a 220-day school year for under-performing students. Anything less shortchanges them for life.

▪  Continue the 180-day school year for performing students, leaving time for diverse things, such as experiential learning, better part-time jobs, etc.

Is this a comprehensive solution?

Does a 40 percent salary increase solve teacher shortages?

Would overall costs be reduced 10 percent?

Does it better educate the under-performers?

What say you, teachers (and taxpayers)?

Stu Rodman of Hilton Head Island represents District 11 on the Beaufort County Council.