My Turn: Too distasteful to ignore
Hold on now! Teachers won’t take their students on field trips? I was dismayed to read that once again our local teachers, or their union, have decided to bring their quest for more money to the bargaining table on the backs of our children, Sierra Sun, Monday, September 8, 2008, “Work to Rule.”
I realize that everyone wants more money in their paycheck, and I think everyone has the right to bargain for as much as they can get from their employer. However, local teachers make a decent salary and compared to other teachers in the state are lucky to have jobs. In a March 25, 2008, Sierra Sun article, “Local School District Avoids Teacher Layoffs,” it was reported that, while thousands of teachers statewide had recently received layoff notices because of our state’s budget woes, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District had decided that there would be NO reduction in the number of teachers in our local school system. Hmmm, that should be good news for the teachers, but sorrily, our teachers are not consoled and are being encouraged to continue their battle for higher salaries using our kids as pawns.
Our teachers are not happy with their current pay schedule. I appreciate that. However, go to the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Web site and see how much our teachers are paid: After a 2 percent increase in 2007, a first year-certificated employee (teacher) makes nearly $41,000. After 15 years that same teacher can make up to almost $69,000. The teachers would like you to believe they never receive a pay raise. Not so, each year, after their third year of teaching, teachers receive a step increase (a salary increase). The step increase is larger if the teacher takes additional college courses. In addition, the teachers union would like you to think our teachers’ salaries are not on par with other districts. A quick look at the California Department of Education’s Web site reveals that our teachers salaries are about the same or higher than other districts. In addition, for the most part local teachers don’t have the problems of those who choose to work in the inner cities. They do have all of the benefits offered in our resort community at their disposal and if money is all that drives them, they have the opportunity to apply for a position in the highest paid areas of the state.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe any group or individual is entitled to any increase in their salary they can negotiate with their employer. Further, I would no more want a teaching position than a hole in my head and I know that I am not cut out for the work they do. We all have teachers as friends and neighbors. Me probably less after this article. I, like many others in this community work for myself. I haven’t had a salary increase in five years, and I pay my own insurance. If I want time off, no one pays me for it. I am not complaining, and I knew what I was getting into when I started my own business. Teachers have always known that they are not entering a high-paying profession. They realized going in that they would be expected to educate our children while often not being shown the proper respect they deserve. But, in spite of that they do receive a fair compensation. Lets take a look at what a local teacher actually receive: Taking the first year teachers salary of $41,000, for a 9-month year, that works out to about a $54,500 annual starting salary if compensated for 12 months of work. In addition, teachers are compensated for taking classes which ultimately lead to advances in their careers and associated additional pay. As well, teachers receive complete medical and retirement benefit packages; they receive additional compensation for teaching Summer School; covering for another teacher; required committee work; extra duty academics and non-academics; their 9-month work period (182 days) includes who knows how many holidays, prep days, in service days, etc., etc? The starting teacher’s advertised $41,000 starting salary works out to about $225 per day. How many local skilled carpenters, mechanics, grocery clerks, delivery people or other workers, subject to winter layoffs, would love to make that kind of guaranteed income not to mention the full benefits, retirement and holidays that our teachers currently receive?
In the past, I have always kept quiet while our teachers went about arguing for their salary increases. Now however, I find their tactics too distasteful to ignore. Their union is urging local teachers to cease long-time programs that benefit our children. As an example, each year the 4th grade kids at Glenshire Elementary have been treated to an educational overnight trip to Malakoff Diggins, something my son had looked forward to for five years. Last year however, the students were informed that they could not go on the trip because the teachers had been told by their union that to accompany the students would contradicted the argument that they were working without just compensation and that the union thought it would make a good statement for their cause. This even while the teachers could elect to be paid for their time as part of the 19.5 “buy-back” hours they are entitled to under their current contract. The teachers’ current intention to not participate in any after-school field trips evidences to me that they, at least in part, have now decided to fight their compensation battle on the backs of their students. I can’t agree with this tactic. I hope the teachers realize that their continued support of such tactics in pursuit of higher salaries, can only help diminish the support they may expect from the community when they seek it in the future.
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