Pay Teachers or Coaches: What Would You Do?

OK. Admit it. You’re trying to ease into the weekend. Me too. And I almost never watch pro sports on TV — until the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl. But I’ll climb out on a limb and predict that the Cleveland Browns won’t lose on Sunday. Not so sure about Ohio State on Saturday as it makes it run for the roses. We’ll see.

But what got me thinking about college football was the insightful series in USA Today this week about college football coaches — and how much they earn. Woot — doesn’t even begin to describe it. Here’s from the story, “College football coaches see salaries rise in down economy“:

The average pay for a head coach in the NCAA’s top-level, 120-school Football Bowl Subdivision is up 28% in that time and up 46% in three years, to $1.36 million.

Furthermore, USA TODAY’s first comprehensive look at the salaries of assistant coaches finds many approaching and even exceeding presidents’ compensation and most eclipsing that of full professors. At the top: The $1.2 million Tennessee is paying defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, an NFL veteran who returned to college football to work for his son, head coach Lane Kiffin.

And the article points out that 56 coaches make a million bucks or more a year — and that most likely doesn’t include all the side deals. Wonder how many professors at Kent State or elsewhere make that much? Just askin’.

Anyway, this isn’t a rant about college football — at any level. I know that big-time sports contribute big time to a school’s reputation, fund raising, alumni involvement and so on. And in all the years I taught at Kent State there was never a tailgate lollapalooza outside my classroom. So it goes.

But it is interesting to me how we wink at the salaries of college coaches — at a time when teachers at all levels are losing their jobs. And many students who are preparing for teaching careers are racking up big debt obligations from loans — at a time when teaching jobs are increasingly hard to find.

For instance, here’s from an Associated Press story by Heather Hollingsworth that made it into the Akron Beacon Journal this morning, “Teacher shortage turns into surplus of educators“:

Since last fall, school systems, state education agencies, technical schools and colleges have shed about 125,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, many teachers who had planned to retire or switch jobs are staying on because of the recession, and many people who have been laid off in other fields are trying to carve out second careers as teachers or applying to work as substitutes to make ends meet.

In Texas, the Round Rock school district had more than 5,000 applications for 322 teacher openings this year and saw its pool of subs almost double to 1,200, about 21/2 times as many as it needs, even on a particularly bad day during flu season, said spokeswoman Joylynn Occhiuzzi.

”It is a tougher job market, and you get applicants that you might not normally have because of the economy,” she said.

Just a few years ago, before the recession hit, several reports had projected a big shortage of teachers across a wide range of subjects over the next several years as baby boomers retired from the classroom and the strong economy lured college graduates into fields other than education.

And folks, this doesn’t even address the thousands of teaching jobs that were “saved” because of the federal stimulus money. Any idea what happens when that goes away?

I know. As Jimmy Carter opined, “Life isn’t fair.” Still, it troubles me that apparently we don’t have enough money to hire teachers — and pay them for the important and demanding work that they do — while there appears to be no limit on the money for coaches, athletic staffs and so on.

Oh well.

I’m still rooting for Ohio State.

And for teachers.

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