Several people have sent me Alia Wong’s piece for The Atlantic on “The Financial Calamity That Is the Teaching Profession.” After reading it, I couldn’t help but conclude that Wong was trying to weave too many different things together into one broader narrative. In a relatively short piece, she touches on the problems with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, costly Master’s degree programs, the multiple and conflicting teacher loan forgiveness programs, the crappy 403b plans many teachers are sold, rising housing costs, and teachers moonlighting as Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts.
In the process of trying to connect all these dots, Wong’s piece lost a lot of nuance. As an example, to support the point about teachers taking on second jobs, Wong cites a Vox.com article to claim that teachers are “five times more likely than the average full-time worker to also have a part-time job.” That’s a gross overstatement, caused by Vox cherry-picking two different survey results. This Brookings piece does a better job of making an apples-to-apples comparison using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS data finds that 14 percent of teachers work a second job, compared to 11 percent of non-teachers. That’s a 3 percentage point gap, or a 30 percent difference. A 30 percent gap is not nothing, but it’s a far cry from the “5 times” figure calculated by Vox and repeated by Wong.
I don’t mean to diminish the real struggles teaches are facing, but most of the factors Wong cites apply at least in some degree to non-teachers as well. Those factors also have very different causes and solutions, and it would have been nice to unpack exactly how and why teachers are and are not different from non-teachers.
Speaking of how education is different than other industries, check out this piece on the trucking industry. In contrast to the fear over autonomous cars, the trucking industry is facing a massive worker shortage. Wages have been flat, and companies are starting to respond with hiring incentives and other bonuses, although, as the article notes, workers are not experiencing those in the same way their employers are describing them. Lots of edu-implications on things like training, expectations, and employer responses to worker shortages.
Here’s what Bellwether staff have been up to.
Everything you wanted to know about buses and the school transportation industry.
The Trump Administration is proposing a regulation that they estimate would take food stamps away from about 3 million people. This Twitter thread from Rebecca Vallas goes into the details and how it would affect schools and students.
States are leading the “free college” push, and Democratic candidates for President are promoting to take the policy national. Frankly, I find this David Deming proposal the simplest, most persuasive argument I’ve read about how and why the feds should get involved. Kevin Carey outlines a similar, more detailed version for The Washington Monthly that would cut out the middleman (states).
Brandon Lewis is in Education Week on the importance of assessment literacy for teachers.
And finally, a call for partners: Over the past two years, Bellwether has been supporting the work of public agencies to improve education outcomes for youth who experience disruptions to their education pathways. Those disruptions include, but are not limited to: an experience with homelessness, a placement in foster care, an incarceration, or an early unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
We are now inviting a new cohort of leaders to submit a preliminary letter of interest to engage in an 18-month planning process to improve the ways in which local, regional, and state agencies communicate and collaborate across their historical silos to better meet the needs of youth and families who experience significant disruptions to their educational and life pathways.
Letters of interest are due September 30. More information about the opportunity, including application instructions and additional deadlines, can be found in this call for applications.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman