I just spent an hour writing and decided to spare the world most of what I wrote. If anyone is interested in the long version and has lots of time let me know. That said, we have to decide in this country what we need from our teachers.
If we want them to; teach 35 kids (or more) at a time, be each child's surrogate parent, insist they have master's degrees or more, and take classes and workshops each year they teach (paying most of that out of their own pocket), expect them to pay for student supplies and materials with their own money, expect them to work through their lunches, tutor for free before after school, take home work in the evenings, weekends and summers, compete for their students attentions with IPODs, cell phones, etc, deal with attention spans of 15-30 seconds, poor behavior, idiot parents, unsporting administrators, and a society that places virtually no value on education, then you should be willing to pay them accordingly.
The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that the average teacher's salary is between 47,000 and 52,500 per year. If we want to pay our teachers less then we need to expect less from them. Most teachers got into the profession because they love children and want our communities to thrive. They believe that education and life long learning is the answer to the problems of our world, and that in order to have a prosperous, strong nation, we need intelligent, thoughtful citizens. Lately we put all the blame for poor test scores and unprepared students on the teacher's shoulders, with no accountability for the students, parents or communities. Yes, teachers are vital, but for learning to take place there must be a triangle of accountability. A teacher only has a child for a short period of time, and they can only do so much, especially when no one else is there to carry some of the weight.
My question is; do we really value education in this country? We give it a lot of lip service, but when it comes to putting our money and our efforts where our mouth is, we fall far short. We've made the teachers convenient scapegoats. Gee, when did teachers become so all powerful that they can correct the entire educational system themselves? Parents, students and communities, please get off your butts and focus on your kid's educations, because if you don't care about it why should an overworked, underpaid, under appreciated stranger?