In nine years of blogging, I think that I have written about the financial side of teaching twice. Today will be the third–and I imagine that my total count for teacher-finances-blogs will stay at three for a few years after this.
Here’s the deal…I don’t like talking about money for two reasons:
- I would not want my students to ever be concerned about my financial situation. That’s not fair to them.
- I just don’t like talking about money.
With that said, I want to react to a “Letter to the Editor” that was in the Arizona Republic this week.
The letter writer basically said that taxpayers are tired of putting money in the pockets of teachers and unions. (I refuse to even link his letter to this blog, by the way.) I have heard sentiments like that many times before, and I just ignore it. This time, however, I am going to react:
Regarding teacher-pay: My paycheck has gone down every year for the past five years. I barely make enough money to stay afloat. I am so tempted to put what my take-home pay is into this blog, but–honestly–I’m sort of embarrassed to do so. After I finish my Master’s degree, I will need to get a part-time job to stay financially above water. My Master’s degree, by the way, will not get me more pay: it will only protect my job so that I am not the bottom person on the totem pole at my school. This is after 22 years of teaching. (As a side note, the reason I won’t get increased pay for my Master’s degree is because our pay is frozen. Maybe it will be unfrozen in the next few years, but I am not counting on it).
Regarding unions: I belong to a union for one reason:
1) Twelve years ago, I got into trouble, and the union bailed me out. If you know me well, you know that I almost never claim to be a “victim” of anything. I have made my own choices in life–of which I am mostly proud–but I “own” even the choices of which I am not proud. The trouble I got into was one of the few times when I truly was a victim. I am not going to go into details, because I don’t want to and because I’d probably be violating 853 FERPA laws if I did so. You’ll have to take my word for it that the problem was not my doing, but I couldn’t make it go away without the help of my union. Do the unions protect “bad” teachers?…I don’t know, but I do know that they protect good teachers who get into legal trouble.
Just so people know this…teachers pay their own union dues, not the taxpayers. It’s expensive, too: it costs just under $600 a year to belong to the union.
Teachers did not go into this profession to get rich. Most of us got into teaching because we thought that we could make a difference. That’s why I did it, anyway. Thus, I don’t like to complain about money and I don’t like to hear other teachers complain about it. We chose this profession; we need to own the limited pay that comes with it.
However, we also joined this profession with a copy of the pay schedule in front of us. We knew what we could expect to make in future years. That pay schedule is no longer valid. For financial reasons that are mostly out of my district’s hands, the tacit agreement that I made with my district is not being honored.
I’ll own that, too. I could get another job. And maybe the day will come when I am tired enough of financially struggling that I do that.
What I won’t own, though, is other people making disparaging comments about teachers getting paid too much, or about taxpayer money going to unions, or about teachers being greedy.
The teachers union in AZ is at best non political. After sitting on the Gov Board for four years and working with legislators for six years on education issues this was a major frustration for me. I went off the Board in 2008 and the goal of gutting public education in AZ has snow balled. It is unfortunate for our students, teachers and potential companies looking to relocate to AZ.
There’s a great new book by David Berliner and Gene Glass (two very famous minds in higher education) called 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools. Myth #10 is “Teachers in the United States are well paid.” Compared to their peers with similar post-secondary education, teachers are not well paid. Compared to other teachers in OCED countries, teachers in the US are not well paid. Compared to the actual work hours, teachers are not well paid. Need I go on? However, teachers are among the few individuals who would willingly sign up for low pay to make a difference in the lives of kids. To all those who read this blog, I will say that a few kind words from students, parents, and the community go a long way to mend the financial gap. Speak up. And speak out against community members who say silly things in newspapers. Keep the counter-narrative going strong!