To the Editor:
In responding to your teacher and teacher union bashing editorial of Saturday, March 31, I would like to submit the following thoughts:
As the saying goes, "To a hammer, everything looks like a nail." You see a piece of news that includes information on an improvement in public school teachers' lives, and you can't help yourself. You drag out every anti-teacher and anti-teacher union stereotype in the book, reheat it in your publication and hope for mileage. So, let me point out some of the aspects you have chosen to ignore:
1. The teaching profession is a profession. To teach in Vermont's public schools, people need academic degrees and training in order to qualify. In that sense, teachers aren't any different from physicians, dentists, veterinarians or lawyers. For good measure, throw professional firefighters and police officers into the mix. How come your wrath focuses on teachers? How come only teachers' salaries are supposed to be tied to and limited by the average taxpayers' income?
2. What's wrong with teachers making $45,000 per year? Would you like to go back to the days when they qualified for food stamps? Greed? Really? When you lean back in your editor's chair and contemplate a group of people that exemplifies greed in our society, you first and foremost come up with teachers in the Northeast Kingdom? Wow!
3. If you had cared to follow the news on the teaching profession in Vermont over the last few years, you would know that teachers have gone without actual raises for the past decade. Any one, two or three percent increase in their salary has been neutralized by inflation, increases in health care premiums and the lengthening of their school days.
4. By definition, teachers get paid for the school year; that's approximately 180 work days between the middle of August and the middle of June. To point out that the school year isn't 12 months long is disingenuous because this isn't new. It has been this way for close to 100 years. Are you, perhaps, suggesting, that teachers should now add about 50 work days per calendar year without compensation? If so, you need to find a solution for the professional development requirements. When you imagine teachers lying on the beach and enjoying their time off, most of them are actually taking college classes to satisfy the requirements of their teaching licenses, or are creating lesson plans for new teaching assignments.
5. Why don't you, instead, start an effort for a year-round school calendar, or for paying teachers for a 12 months long school year? How about limiting teachers' work days to 8 hours? Do you really think that teachers are done with their work for the day when their last class of the day gets out? (If so, you really don't know what you are talking about.)
6. Let's talk unions, in this case the Vermont NEA. Right now, local school boards and local NEA chapters typically negotiate three-year contracts (that also cover non-NEA members). They usually come up with pretty reasonable agreements that indirectly get ratified by the voters. (Much more often than not, the budgets are ratified by the voters. Are you suggesting that the voters are making unreasonable decisions?) By all accounts, the union has been more than co-operative in this process since our local teachers are at the bottom of the pay scale in the state.
7. Let's talk unions being eliminated. Are you suggesting that the principals or local school boards or superintendents are better off negotiating with each individual teacher? Do you think that highly qualified teachers will be interested in one-year, race-to-the-bottom contracts? Has that been tried anywhere? With teachers, physicians, lawyers, police officers, professional fire fighters?
8. Why don't you establish some standard for your own editorials? Common sense would be a good start. For full disclosure, I live with a local middle school teacher. I invite you to follow her for a week (school and home, until 9 p.m.), and I take any bet that you will be changing your tune by week's end.
West Burke, Vt.