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Want top teachers? Pay them more: Geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada knows a thing or two about education — the Harlem Children’s Zone, which he founded in 1970, has helped thousands of students from lower-income neighborhoods go on to college and achieve success. And he has some ideas on how to attract top talent to the teaching profession: Pay them more.

“You know, it’s funny because we live in a capitalist country, which we love, and we think it works everywhere — except in education, right? If you want high quality, you have to pay people more. You can’t pay people a part-time wage and expect you’re going to get the best and the brightest to come into education. We need to change that dynamic. And so when I traveled around the country, and I see places where teachers are driving Uber’s because they can’t pay their rent or their salary, you’re not going to have the best education for our kids,” Canada told Yahoo Finance.

Education activist Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone, where he serves as President and CEO, have become a national model in education. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce co-hosts a luncheon with the United States Chamber of Commerce, with Canada as a keynote speaker joined by former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post (Photo By Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, agrees, telling Yahoo Finance that low teacher pay in the U.S. needs to be and can be addressed. 

“This situation can be turned around, as educators, more and more, are taking action to secure the resources our kids and public schools need. But for meaningful change to happen, we need elected leaders to provide real investments in our students and their schools. It includes funding to pay teachers and staff a living wage and to ensure there are counselors and school nurses to address kids’ social and emotional well-being.” 

A young female teacher helps a boy in her class to conduct a chemistry experiment.

But it’s not just about pay, says Canada. “So one issue is we’ve got to pay teachers more, but we have to hold teachers accountable, and we have to make sure that they have the tools to do the job. And I think what people are dealing with one aspect of that and not dealing with the other aspects. How do we hold folks accountable? How do we make sure that they’re delivering for our kids? So we’re getting the best bang for our buck.”

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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