Marie’s Musings – September 2018

Home » Marie’s Musings – September 2018
Thoughts on education, publishing, and other intellectual titillations – by Marie Brown, Consulting Editorial Project Director

***The following comments, views, and opinions are solely those of Marie Brown, and do not necessarily reflect those of Westchester Publishing Services, its management, and staff.***


“I have a master’s degree, 16 years of experience, work two extra jobs and donate blood plasma to pay the bills. I’m a teacher in America.”

Hope Brown, U.S. history teacher
Woodford County High School,
Versailles, Kentucky
(TIME cover story –9/24/18 issue)

TEACHERS and $$$$$

TIME magazine chose to highlight the dilemma that many teachers face—loving their job, but not the low salary that most teachers earn compared to equivalent professions.  According to a research paper published by the Economic Policy Institute, teachers now earn 18.7% less than other college-educated workers.  Although teachers do receive better benefits packages than their peers in other professions, those benefits only mitigate part of the gap: including benefits, teachers face an 11% compensation penalty. There are no states where teacher pay is equal to or better than that of other college graduates. Low pay was a major factor driving the widescale teacher strikes and protests in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and West Virginia last spring—and this activism appears to be carrying over into this new school year.

MY TAKE – Why have teachers always been underpaid?  I think it started in the early days of public school education.  Unmarried women (who were also forbidden to socialize with men!) were the first teachers.  They were given low compensation because they didn’t have a family to support; their material needs were humble, and they were females who were happy to have a job and not complain.  The “teacher-wage penalty” of today mirrors the gap between women and comparable male professionals in similar careers. It’s been a long time since men were the only bread-winners in a family, and a long time in coming that women be recognized and compensated based on their skills and experience and not their gender. We need to recruit “the best of the best” to the noble profession of teaching and not lose out to the more remunerative jobs in the business world. I’m not happy to see teachers going out on strike and protesting, but I appreciate the financial issues.  It isn’t right that Hope Brown has to donate her blood to make ends meet. As a former teacher, I can attest to the fact that my fellow-teachers traditionally give their “blood” in many other ways as well.


It’s old news that Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos is a champion of school vouchers. And now she has the powerful backing of the billionaire Koch brothers.  Together they have helped to support Arizona lawmakers to enact the nation’s broadest school vouchers law — state-funded vouchers that give parents more school choice and can be spent on private or religiously-affiliated schools—diverting money away from the already underfunded public school system. A group of five women (mothers, mostly), alarmed that this new law would weaken the public school system, took the bold initiative of organizing the collection of 111,540 signatures protesting the new law and submitted them to the Arizona secretary of state. As a result, Proposition 305—to nullify the new law–will be listed as a referendum on the November 6 ballot.

BIAS ALERT***  I have always supported our free public schools.  Together with our free public libraries, it is a hallmark of our democracy. Unquestionably public schools need to improve in many ways.  As I have said many times, excellent teachers are the key to school success.  Start with that—pay them what they deserve (see related item above) and the rest will follow.  But I am very adamant about empowering non-educators, like the Koch brothers, to use their money and influence to promote their own agenda… See the next item. Contradiction alert.


This last month saw several well-known, highly successful icons from the business and entertainment industries turning their attention to education.

  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has pledged $2 billion (to start with!) to address family homelessness and early childhood education. The Bezos Day One Fund will subsidize existing nonprofits working with homeless families and create a network of nonprofit preschools in low-income communities.
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new initiative that would focus on “global education learning,” committing $68 million over the next four years to help improve primary and secondary education in India and Africa.
  • Rihanna (Robin Rihanna Fenty) in addition to her worldwide entertainment celebrity, is an ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education whose mission is to improve education for 870 million children in 89 countries—emphasizing the outreach to underserved girls. She has recently penned a well-received and inspiring Op-Ed piece in the UK newspaper, “The Guardian.”
  • Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, have announced the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), a new round of grants that will focus on expanding the notion of “personalized learning” to include the “whole child,” and supporting the “whole educator” to include the professional, social, and emotional well-being of teachers.

MY TAKE—I am thrilled that very wealthy and influential people are addressing the educational challenges of our time—as long as they leave it up to the professionals to implement those initiatives.


In this, my favorite item of the month, the Texas State Board of Education voted to remove any mention of Hillary Rodham Clinton, among several historical figures, from the required social studies curriculum for high schoolers. Among others who got “chopped”—Helen Keller and  Barry Goldwater.  Among those who survived – Moses and Billy Graham. (Wait—Moses?? –reason given was that Moses was an influence in the drafting of America’s founding documents). The board explained some people were kept off the required list because there were too many for the students to learn.

SOAPBOX**** I’m embarrassed for the state of Texas. Clearly these decisions were based on politics—not on historical relevance. And I’m outraged for the students of Texas who deserve an unbiased curriculum.


  • Curriculum Associates is the largest privately-held educational publisher with $187 million in revenues in 2017.
  • Carnegie Learning has acquired Mondo Publishing, a provider of print and digital workbooks focused on K-5 literacy.
  • Pearson continued its reign as the world’s largest book publisher in 2017 with sales of over $6 billion. Scholastic came in 9th place with revenues of $1,742 billion. (These are total sales of their trade, K-12, etc., divisions)
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) divested its Riverside clinical and testing portfolio to private equity firm Alpine Investors for $140 million.

That’s all folks!

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