Here's a lesson in bad math: A South Jersey school district looking for novel ways to offset funding cuts is instituting steep fees for student-teachers who train in its classrooms.
Beginning in September, would-be teachers from New Jersey colleges who want to complete their required in-class training in Medford's schools will have to pony up $1,200, or $1,500 if they're from out-of-state colleges.
Medford is reportedly the first district in the state to make such a move, and it should be the last.
A district official told the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill that the local school board had challenged the administration to look at everything they do that has a monetary value attached to it.
That's understandable, as are the modest fees of $50 and $75 Medford will now charge student-teachers for short-term field work in the district. But the hefty full-semester fees, for students already paying tuition to their colleges, are out of line.
Several universities, faced with their own budget crises, said they will no longer send students to Medford, which hosted 30 student-teachers last year, because the institutions can't afford to pay the fees.
In response, Medford amended its plan to allow the students to pay out of their own pockets. This creates the additional problem of narrowing the potential pool of student-teachers in that district to those with the means to pay both the fees and their tuition.
There's no denying that the student-teaching experience is valuable, or that Medford schools are a good place to gain classroom experience, but there's nothing to suggest that the opportunity to train in Medford is so precious or unique that it justifies the cost.
Student-teaching is not a passive experience, not time spent simply sitting in a classroom soaking up lectures from more experienced peers. Student-teachers are fully engaged, not only backing up teachers when needed, but leading lessons and offering one-on-one assistance to students.
As it is, college graduates often come out of school saddled with sky-high debt and enter a tight job market. It's inexcusable for their potential employers to reward their ambition by turning them into cash cows.