In many states, universities are now giving a masters degree to teachers for coursework that in the past would only get them an undergraduate degree.
The Kansas Board of Regents is now being asked to approve a masters degree for the student teaching experience, coursework that has traditionally been undergraduate level in Kansas.
If approved, the remaining Kansas universities will also offer masters programs for training high school teachers.
Why should Kansans care?
As a taxpayer, you will be paying premium for regular. What do I mean by that? These teachers will still be beginners. But they will start at the masters level pay scale, about $1500–to–$2000 more per year. These alternative teachers, given this empty masters, will cost state taxpayers from $60,000 to $80,000 more over their teaching career.
Kansans will be paying an extra million dollars for every 15–to–20 teachers produced. And if these programs are to have any effect on the teacher shortage, we will have to hire hundreds at these inflated rates.
Every regular Kansas teacher who graduated with a bachelors degree will recognize how unfair this will be to their pay scale. Veteran teachers with bachelors degrees and up to five years of experience will find themselves paid less than these brand new rookies.
But the real loss of an empty masters is the loss of depth of training.. We need teachers who not only studied their field at the bachelors level, but who went back for more depth... in English or math or science. A bona fide masters degree accomplishes that.
In Kansas, over half of the biology teachers have masters degrees. That helps them to understand new developments and deliver updated coursework with confidence.
A teacher who already has been given a masters for student teaching has no need to pursue a masters degree and gain that additional depth.
Taxpayers pay premium wages for regular teachers.
Veteran teachers find themselves several thousand dollars behind rookies with less experience.
And Kansas discards any incentive for teachers to go back to gain additional depth. And the children of Kansas lose as teachers with genuine depth of knowledge retire off.
But the real question the Regents should be asking is: what does a masters degree mean? A doctorate has been the investigation of a large chunk of new knowledge. And a masters has been a smaller introduction to advanced study...a small chunk of original research and advanced knowledge.
But we live in a new era where education is being treated as a business, and courses and programs are products to be marketed. The teacher shortage has been packaged as a market opportunity and across the United States, we are seeing a slide to cheap professors, cheap courses and cheap degrees
This week the Kansas Board of Regents will have to decide if a masters degree is a start on advanced study, or a union card into teaching.
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives in Emporia.