This week, we discuss survey results showing that most U.S. teachers feel overworked and underpaid; why insomnia is a multibillion-dollar problem; helping overworked public defenders; challenges facing the United States and Israel; how food insecurity and wildfire risk are connected; and why it's a good time for the United States to strengthen ties in Central Asia.
The well-being of many U.S. public school teachers appears to have improved since the start of the pandemic. However, teachers in some states are still leaving their jobs at higher rates than before COVID-19 hit.
RAND researchers recently conducted a survey to learn more about what might be driving America's educators out of the classroom. Here's what they found:
- Sixty-six percent of U.S. teachers say their base salary is inadequate. That's compared with 39 percent of U.S. working adults.
- On average, teachers want $17,000 more per year to feel that their pay is adequate. This equates roughly to a 27 percent raise—comparable to the estimated gap in pay between teachers and other similarly college-educated workers.
- During the school year, teachers worked more hours per week, on average, than all working adults (53 hours compared with 46).
- Low salary and long working hours were the top-ranked reasons why teachers said they were considering leaving their jobs.
- Compared with white teachers, Black teachers reported working more hours per week and were less satisfied with their base salary. Black teachers were also more likely than white teachers to consider leaving their jobs.
Addressing these issues is important. When teachers leave their jobs, student achievement can suffer, and the cost of replacing teachers can be high. To increase teacher pay and improve working conditions, state policymakers could begin by setting a minimum pay for starting salaries, and district leaders could expand opportunities for extra pay for additional school-related activities.
The symptoms of insomnia, the most common sleep disorder in the world, are debilitating. And those symptoms—such as difficultly thinking clearly and maintaining concentration—have major costs in the aggregate. Researchers at RAND and RAND Europe have studied this staggering economic toll. They estimate that chronic insomnia pulls down the U.S. economy by more than $200 billion every year. Other major economies also forgo tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity.
Many public defenders are overloaded with work. As a result, these attorneys are forced to prioritize some cases over others, may fail to fully investigate an issue, or may not be able to file the motions they should. This inevitably leads to harm. To address this, a new RAND report explores possible national workload standards by calculating the amount of time public defenders need to provide adequate representation in an array of adult criminal cases. Such standards can help ensure the justice system better serves all those who rely on it.
Deep social and political divisions. Increasingly hostile rhetoric. The prominent role of religious beliefs in politics. According to RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins, these and other trends show how the United States and Israel may be on similar paths. And while the two countries also share a deep sense of foreboding about society heading for civil war, Jenkins says this is unlikely. However, one cannot rule out the real prospect of political violence.
Last month's wildfires in Maui highlight the link between food insecurity and wildfire prevention, says RAND's Lena Easton-Calabria. A significant decrease in the amount of active farming and ranching land has contributed to the fragility of the island's food supply. This shift has also increased wildfire risk by propelling the unchecked growth of invasive, fire-prone grasses. There are many ways to address this. For example, agroforestry systems, which combine the planting of trees and shrubs with crop and animal farming systems, have proven to be resilient against wildfires.
Central Asia—made up of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—is seldom a top priority for U.S. foreign policy. But according to RAND's Hunter Stoll, now may be a good time for Washington to make greater long-term investments and rebuild its reputation there. Central Asia's souring relations with Russia and growing skepticism of China have created a rare window of opportunity, he says. And while Russian and Chinese influence in the region will never go away entirely, the United States should take advantage to ensure that it doesn't “remain on the periphery.”
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