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Education 2000: Students Nationwide Return to School; Fifth Grade Teacher Discusses Educator Dropout Rate

Aired September 5, 2000 - 1:11 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Are your pencils sharpened? For many children across our country, today is the first day of the new school year.

And CNN's Greg LaMotte is at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Burbank, California to see how things are going there -- Greg.

GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is the first day of school back for many students, the first day of school ever for a lot of students. And for many parents that we saw this morning, there were tears as they dropped their children off and big smiles for other parents who dropped their children off. This may be the happiest day of the year for them.

I'll jump right to the case here. We're talking to Ryan Burke. He is a fifth grade teacher here at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

Question No. 1, the national education association says that 50 percent of those who enter the teaching profession drop out or quit after the first five years. That's a high dropout rate. Why do teachers leave the profession so quickly.

RYAN BURKE, FIFTH GRADE TEACHER: Well, you can sum it up in one word, and that would be "economics." The pay is simply not there. Quite frankly, these teachers work very, very hard, they love their kids very, very much, as much as I love my kids here, but the pay is not enough for a lot of people.

LAMOTTE: Ryan, what does it say to you about society that allows teachers, who are not overly paid, we will all agree, to also dip into their own pocketbooks to pay for school supplies?

BURKE: I think that's quite a shame. It's quite a shame. A lot of politicians pay a lot of lip service to how much they are an education politician, but really actions speak louder than words. And, quite frankly, these citizens of the United States deserve a lot better than lip service.

LAMOTTE: Education is a big issue among the presidential candidates. There is greater pressure being applied on the education community these days. What are you doing in the classroom to respond to that pressure? BURKE: Well, we're doing what we always do: We teach the kid to the very best of our ability and to the very best of their ability. We align all of our assignments in conjunction with the standards so that the kids perform well on the necessary tests.

LAMOTTE: Thank you very much. That's Ryan Burke, a fifth grade teacher here at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

Lou, I got to tell you, this is the smartest group of students I have ever run across in my life. Here's an example. Question No. 1, ladies and gentlemen: Who is the greatest news correspondent on the face of the planet.

STUDENTS: You are!

LAMOTTE: And who is the greatest news anchor on the face of the planet.

STUDENTS: Lou Waters!

LAMOTTE: Lou, there you have it. And you've got to love the future of this country.

WATERS: Boy, they got it together early this year. Thanks, Greg.

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