While the cat’s away the mice will play. And while the clown’s sunning himself in Hawaii (again) the ideologues in his Cabinet will launch vitriolic attacks on public service workers. As teachers are forced to endure another day of loading the news sites and seeing the country’s most powerful figures attack them, we should consider the consequences of underinvesting in teaching, medicine, and other vital public services.
The surest way to lower the quality of your workforce is to play less. Add to that insults from arseholes like Tolley who do next to nothing for her quarter of a million dollar salary and anyone with talent who hasn’t already rejected the profession because of the low pay and poor conditions will have even more reason to leave. Down goes the depth of talent.
It’s the best teachers who are the most likely to leave. They’re the ones who can get better paying work elsewhere. You’re losing the experience, the role-models, the leadership. And who are you going to replace them with?
Well, last time National caused a crisis in teaching by underpaying and cutting places at teachers’ colleges, they ‘solved’ the problem by allowing people who weren’t registered teachers to teach. The problems that resulted were entirely predictable. Try replacing the cream of your teaching profession with non-teachers and education suffers.
This is not, by any means, limited to teaching. Across the whole public service, the government is giving the best people a big financial and emotional push to leave. I’m hearing stories from every type of public service worker all saying pretty much the same thing: ‘I can understand not getting big pay rises but they want me to take a pay cut and kiss their feet in thanks, why should I bother to give up my life working for these people?’.
By undervaluing them and telling them they ought to like it, the government may as well buy tickets to Sydney for our most talented and dedicated public servants.
It’s another manifestation of this cheapskate mentality that afflicts the Right in this country. They can see the cost of paying teachers (that’s my taxes!) but they can’t see the cost of undermining the quality of education in this country. Perhaps the cost is too far in the future for their minds to process. Perhaps they say ‘well, my kids go to good (private) schools, who cares about the poor’, which is just an example of the ‘man is an island’ fallacy that underpins so much right-wing ideology.
Whatever, National will try to save pennies today on payrises but we’ll all pay the big bucks in years to come as the consequences inevitably come back to bite us with worse health, less effiicent public services, and an undereducated workforce.