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A pay raise for our teachers is long overdue

Feather Publishing
3/28/2014

 

We expect a lot from our teachers, as well we should. After all, they are greatly responsible for helping to mold and extract the potential out of students who will be our future leaders.

Unfortunately, the huge responsibility placed on educators isn’t reflected in their salaries. Few professions in this country that require a four-year college degree pay less than that of a teacher.

When you consider most salaried teachers are forced to take the job home with them, their hourly wage becomes even lower. It’s an injustice that isn’t being addressed. According to a 2011 National Commission on Teaching survey, half of all new teachers quit within five years.

Why?

The list of reasons talented teachers are switching professions is growing. Aside from the low pay, teachers are increasingly asked to do more with less support. The loss of classroom aides, added duties, more reporting, more testing and paperwork … It’s taking a toll. Morale among teachers is at an all-time low.

Our teachers are some of our children’s most important role models, tasked with setting a living example of the kind of people our kids should strive to be like. But the role models themselves are unhappy. They are tired. Some are even bitter.

No one should be surprised that teachers in Plumas County are speaking out about their low wages and working conditions. Our teachers aren’t alone. They are merely the local voices complaining about a problem that is national in scale.

Our country’s education model, while it isn’t entirely broken, certainly needs some repair. It’s embarrassing that the richest nation in the free world is barely in the middle of the pack when it comes to test scores, particularly in science and math.

A chief reason for America’s lagging classroom performance is there simply aren’t enough good teachers at the elementary and high school levels. Many of the good ones give it their best shot, but ultimately change careers to earn a better living.

According to statistics for 2013 compiled by the National Education Association, the average starting salary for a teacher in this country is $36,141. The average starting salary in California is $41,259. In Plumas County, a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn $33,672.

On March 12, this paper published a perspective by Ron Logan, president of the Plumas County Teachers Association. Logan touched on a number of issues regarding the Plumas Unified School District’s budget.

Two points in Logan’s editorial stood out: He said teachers’ salary structures in the PUSD haven’t changed in eight years (an editorial on the next page, by PUSD Board Member Bob Tuerck, contradicts Logan’s claim). Meanwhile, the district’s reserve fund is $10 million.

The school district has done a great job balancing its budget and socking away money for the future. As a result, our district is probably in better financial shape than most public school districts in the country.

But, as the headline on Logan’s story stated: How much is not enough? Ten million dollars would seem to be more than enough.

At least a fraction of that money needs to be spent to support the students and teachers who are in the PUSD system right now.

People don’t become teachers with the idea of getting rich. They do it because they want to do their part to help give our kids the tools to succeed in life.

We should do our part to make sure our teachers have the tools and support they need to do the job we expect of them.

A well-deserved raise would seem appropriate.


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