I think that most problems in education would be fixed if the profession were more prestigious and attractive to the top tier of college students or business professionals. It would definitely help if the wages were higher. I chose teaching as a career, but I do have a really hard time qualifying my decision to myself knowing that I make 3 times less than my parents did when I was growing up. And half as much as my friends and family who are the same age as me. Yeah... I know that money isn't everything.... and there are perks to feeling fulfilled by my career choice and the impact it has on the world..... but it sucks to have to curb eating out and buying coffee and talking on my cell phone in order to support my career choice. Grrr.
That said, I have no idea how state governments could afford to pay teachers more, considering the current financial situation in the country. I'm wondering if there couldn't be greater incentives for teachers, like more leniency in forgiving student loans, discounts on health care or... SOMETHING.
I'd also love to see more of a "ladder" to climb for ambitious teachers who do want to take on leadership roles within their school and/or school district. It seems silly that New Mexico's 3 tiers in teaching come only from creating a portfolio and dictate no changes to a teacher's role whatsoever. I'm thinking that roles like department head or educational coach could become more clearly defined (and meaningful) and could allow teachers 1 extra period off from teaching per day in order to observe novice teachers, organize meetings, and manage various facets of the school. Each of these positions could be considered a promotion, and could come with a significant wage increase - not a joke-worthy stipend of $500/year spread out of 26 pay periods.