Friday, February 17, 2006

Teachers need lesson in private sector

The below editorial appeared in the Herald News.

Teachers need lesson in private sector

The issue: Teachers expect some interesting perks these days.

We say: Time to get real.

How times have changed.

Twenty years ago, the teaching profession was often the last resort in career choices. Low pay, basic benefits and long hours were an unattractive option to opportunities offered in the private sector.

Since then, the pay for teachers and administrators has risen steadily. Though their salary increases have come down somewhat in the past few years, 3 percent to 5 percent yearly bumps aren't unusual. Teachers still receive pensions, which is understandable since they don't earn Social Security benefits. Up until a couple of years ago, many districts still provided full medical benefits at no cost, though the trend now is to more closely mirror benefits received in the private sector and have the teachers share a portion of the cost.

Speaking of the private sector, much has changed there, too, in the last two decades. Pensions, fully paid medical coverage and double-digit pay increases have become things of the past for a majority of workers in nongovernment jobs. In many industries, downsizing, cost-cutting and subcontracting of staff work has become a yearly occurrence. A 1 percent or 2 percent yearly pay increase, if you're lucky, is often the most many expect these days.

Despite this, school officials are baffled when they have a difficult time convincing the Legislature, or even parents in their district, that they need more money to run the schools.

Much of the money used by a school district is for salaries. Teachers are educating the future of our country, and smaller class sizes help make teaching — and learning — easier.

But empathy works both ways. Educators need to be sensitive to the economic and lifestyle realities of the communities they serve. And that hasn't always been the case.

On Monday, for instance, the teachers' union in Plainfield protested the fact that their traditional two-full-week winter holiday was being cut by five days. The union claimed the extra five days off were needed to maintain the "continuity of education," especially for Hispanic students whose families may visit Mexico for three weeks at winter break. Though we laud the union for its sensitivity to diversity, we must say of their claim: Yeah, right.

The union also requested that spring break be rescheduled to coordinate with that of schools in DuPage County so teachers wouldn't have the financial burden of paying for day care. Are they even trying to understand what other parents, parents of the children they teach, must go through?

Finally, in a recent OpenLine submission, a teacher lamented the fact that it took 20 years for him or her to get an annual salary up to $90,000. A lot of households will never see that kind of money on two salaries, let alone one.

For the rest of the story click here.

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