And I do want to get elected:
I missed my deadline for the Reader. I haven’t done any serious recent blog postings but a few days ago I responded to a Facebook comment that every beginning teacher ought to be paid $60,000.
I took a little break after an hour’s French studies to clear my mind and I began thinking about that post and my reply which is copied below.
That $60,000 salary is bullshit. Its bullshit in the same way as some folks are saying the United States should pay full tuition for every college student. I called it Pie-in-the-sky in my reply which I think was thoughtful but America doesn’t need thinking on the left to be as addled as Trump’s tweets.
Here’s the facts. Public School Teachers make good livings. They are paid the same whether they are brilliant or mediocre. This offends some Republicans but who cares. Let them go into teaching. I’ve known dynamic teachers who petered out because of the demands of the job. Its called “burn out.” The challenge for any successful school is to prevent burn out. Using high pay to keep teachers motivated is a lost cause. It’s a lost cause that teacher’s unions chase after vigorously. They are as addicted to pushing up high wages as District Attorneys too often are by high conviction rates……whether the convicted are guilty or not. The rates become their bragging rights for reelection. Ditto teacher politicians in their unions. “We got you more pay and we poured out a lot of crocodile tears about all the other stuff like big classes. Keep us negotiating for more of the same.”
For instance, in Duluth our Teacher’s Union has made it damn near impossible to hire more teachers. Every scrap of money the state gives us goes into to paying existing teachers not hiring more to have smaller classes. When I asked Frank Wanner, then the DFT President, why his union would not support a levy referendum request in 1997 that the Board promised to use to hire additional specialist teachers his response to me was “What’s in it for us?” meaning the existing teachers. But the DFT got behind the Red Plan. They had to to stay in good stead with Duluth’s languishing construction unions and supported the ruinous Red Plan that diverted so much local levy into building bonds at the expense of a couple hundred existing teaching jobs. Ah, but after silencing teachers worried about the Red Plan, Frank did ridicule the School Board after the Red Plan’s damage was done – for not knowing better. Thanks a lot.
Some union leaders do see the forest for the trees. I once fell in love with the AFT’s (American Federation of Teachers) gnarly old President Al Shanker. As he aged he realized that public schools owed more to their students. Please read the link.
Here is a basic truth about teacher pay. Teachers, protected by tenure and unions, have it pretty good if they are reasonably good teachers. First, Its a secure job. Its protected during economic downturns because the public will continue to keep them employed. Second, Its a job with a summer vacation. I know. I know!!!!! Teachers hate it when this is thrown into their face but its undeniable. Three months of summer off to take more classes for a higher better paying degree, or to garden or to travel. Hell, I wanted to be a teacher for this reason. My father left a full time public job to become a college teacher who taught one summer session but discovered he could take his kids on six week camping trips to introduce them to America and Canada. Third, Its modest wages (which are looking better and better to a lot of low level service employees these days) are vastly supplemented by a generous public retirement plan…..in many states like Minnesota. My Dad’s TRA money covered half my Mother’s living expenses and housing needs until she died after six years in a dementia wing of a nursing home here in Duluth. Fortunately, she had some other income and savings for the other half thanks to prudent children who looked out after her interests.
What I wrote in my reply was this:
Harry Welty: Easy to say but a very tall order. How about guaranteeing all parents $40,000. How about guaranteeing no classroom has more than 25 kids. Both are worthwhile goals but pie in the sky. If Duluth was to implement this overnight on its property taxes I can’t calculate the cost but I can imagine it. $60,000 is probably the average pay without benefits for a Duluth teacher. Starting everyone at this salary might be like giving 500 teachers 10,000 each or $5 million. It won’t reduce class sizes. It won’t make kids learn more. Multiplied across America It will make Democrats very unpopular overnight.
A FRIEND’S REPLY: It is a commentary on our society that people would rebel against paying teachers a decent wage – commensurate with the importance of the job. But, people pay hundreds to see a professional sporting event, and the players are paid exorbitant salaries. We pay thousands for vehicles, and auto executives make millions. We pay for those salaries, and maybe we don’t like it, but we keep buying cars and trucks and we keep going to sporting events. But, we won’t pay what teachers are truly worth. It shows how little we truly value education.
Harry Welty: I can’t disagree with you. The challenge is addressing multiple priorities simultaneously. Gas taxes for infrastructure. Taxes for preschools. Taxes for conservation of federal lands and Health care The list is long and has been neglected for a long time while the Kochs and their ilk were spared. I take Bernie’s advocacy as a worthy goal but not as a practical one.