By Wes Moore
We all had that teacher who changed our lives.
Lieutenant Colonel Michael Murnane was my high school social studies teacher. His task? Getting a bunch of us military school kids interested in the Federalist Papers. Not so easy. But for the first time in my life, history came alive for me in that classroom. Hamilton. Madison. Jay. The Lieutenant Colonel made my 16-year-old self feel like I was in conversation with these giants in American history. I became part of our country’s story.
I think about my high school social studies teacher a lot because my life and its trajectory was changed because of my relationship with him. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, without the many great teachers I’ve had in my life. These are people who saw potential in me even though I did my best to hide it. Educators who imagined a future for me when I didn’t yet have the courage to imagine for myself.
Every student deserves the chance to be inspired by a teacher like Lieutenant Colonel Michael Murnane.
But right now in Maryland, our kids are at risk of not getting that opportunity because of a worsening teacher shortage.
More than 5,500 Maryland teachers left the profession in 2022 alone. That’s 5,500 people who could change a child’s life, who could be the one person who sees their potential and fights for them. Equally disturbing – nearly half of Maryland’s educators are leaving the profession within their first 3 years. We’re losing some of the best people in our state, the people our children, and our future, depend on.
When I was serving my country in the Afghanistan War, my soldiers and I all learned the same lesson on day 1: leave no one behind. And right now, Maryland is leaving its students, its families, and the educators they depend on behind. That has to change for the sake of the health of our state.
Should I be elected governor, addressing this teacher shortage will be one of my highest priorities. Here’s how we’ll do it:
Raise salaries for teachers and education support professionals. The fact is that Maryland is one of the most expensive states to live in, and our teacher salaries have not kept up. Maryland is home to some of the best educators in the country. And the best families. And if we want to continue that tradition, then we need to make our educator pay scale competitive with other states’. Paying teachers and education support professionals what they’re worth isn’t some bold political statement. Or a partisan one. It is what’s right and what is necessary.
Expand initiatives like the Teaching Fellows for Maryland Scholarship and “Grow Your Own” teacher preparation programs. These programs help young people passionate about education actually pursue that passion and inspire the generation behind them. Those are the people we want teaching our kids. We already have incredible infrastructure right here in Maryland to help expand our teaching ranks. What we lack is a leader who’s willing to put our school communities first. That’s why I’m committed to making Maryland the first state in the country to offer a service year option to every high school graduate, to include giving the option to work to rebuild our education infrastructure in the state of Maryland.
Honor the people who fight for our kids. Teachers. Administrators. Custodial workers. Cafeteria workers. Honoring them means both that they should be able to work in 21st century school buildings, but also having a chief executive who lifts up the profession. It takes a village to run a school, and it takes a village of incredible people to run a school where every child can thrive. All these years later, I still remember Miss Jay, a cafeteria worker at my high school. She wasn’t a woman of grand gestures, but she was a woman who knew that with a single smile, she could make a child feel welcomed; like they belonged. Honor is a verb – it’s a direct action. Funding our schools and the people who make them great; supporting our early childhood workforce; expanding innovative teacher mentorship and career ladder programs; partnering with community organizations, non-profits, and Maryland’s legendary HBCUs to recruit, prepare, and support diverse teacher candidates.
These aren’t slogans. They’re direct actions I intend to take as governor of Maryland. Because every child deserves to have a Lieutenant Colonel Murnane.
Because every child deserves to have a teacher change their life.
Because every child deserves a shot. Just like the one I got.
Wes Moore is a U.S. Army combat veteran who led soldiers in combat with the 82nd Airborne Division, a Rhodes Scholar, former small business owner, and former CEO of one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty organizations. He is the Democratic nominee for Maryland governor.
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