I didn't say anything. I did not agree then. But I may have changed my mind.
Hosting a student teacher, done properly, is a ton of work. You have responsibility for all the usual lesson planning, only second hand, checking and going over all of it. And the more trouble your student teacher is having catching on, the more time you spend ("Okay, you say you want to discuss 'The Road Not Taken.' What exactly do you want to discuss about it? What are some of the questions you're going to use to draw the students out? Where do you hope the discussion will lead?") You watch the lessons being delivered and essentially develop a lesson plan on the fly for how you'll help the student teacher process what happened. And you've got to balance making sure that neither the student teacher nor the students in your class are being shortchanged. Plus the career and personal counseling (How many times did I tell someone at the end of their day, "It's okay. If you don't cry at least once during student teaching, you don't understand the situation.")
To get all meta and mindful about classroom practice is exhilarating, but also exhausting. It is no wonder that some cooperating teachers simply hand a lesson plan over and say, "Just do this," or just hand the class over and go sit in the lounge. In all my years, I had exactly one student teacher who was a natural who needed very little assistance from me. In many cases it was not until the last several weeks that the ceased to be extra work, and in a few cases-- lordy!
So the notion that, as a student teacher, you are providing a valuable labor-saving service for the district is just not so. And that's okay. I took on many student teachers despite the extra work it made because I believed it was a way to keep my own professional muscles exercised and because if I wanted to see a new crop of good teachers enter the field, then I had to play my part in helping that happen.
But pay them? That seemed backwards to me. And I suspect it seems that way to many of the "Nobody paid me to student teach" crowd.
College has gotten increasingly expensive. Really expensive. Anyone who says, "Well, I just worked my way through school" is just showing their ignorance. In my region, student teachers usually teach close enough to campus that they can keep staying in a dorm room--but that's not cheap. And the costs of commuting are not cheap either. And a teacher's salary is not going to work off that debt very quickly.
Over the past couple of decades, an increasing number of professions have become prohibitively expensive to enter. It's not just the education, but that the entryway now lies through an unpaid internship, and that creates a variety of barriers to entering the field. And I defy you to name any field-- journalism, advertising, medicine-- where the ability to live for a year or two without any income is an actual qualification for the job.
Loan forgiveness and grants can lower financial barriers to entering the teaching profession, but a stipend for student teaching also makes sense. Use state or federal money. Districts that can afford it would be smart to offer stipends to student teachers as a step toward recruiting folks to fill the district's empty teaching spots.
Student teaching is a crazy chapter in a baby teacher's life-- you're still in college, but not really, and can you even do this, and why aren't there enough hours in the day, and there definitely enough hours for you to maintain solid contact with your human support system, and graduation is almost here and what are you going to do with your life, anyway, and did you even remember to eat today? A stipend could reduce worries by a hair and serve as a gesture of support for your professional choice.
Most importantly, it could reduce, by even a little bit, financial barriers to entering the profession. It may just seem like nickels and dimes, but if you're going to be a teacher, getting used to nickels and dimes will be valuable.