Thursday, January 14, 2010

And Then There Are Those Times......

......when blog fodder comes from our local "newspaper". This is the newest paper in our little county, one that showed such promise when it showed up that we canceled our subscription to the other one that we had been getting for years. We may be rethinking that decision...

The front page main article today has the headline "Top officials not feeling economic pinch."

Several paragraphs into the article is this statement: "And this newspaper's review of public salaries throughout the county has shown that the pay of top municipal officials along with hundreds of local educators, has been virtually unaffected by the economic downturn."

The article hints that while many people have suffered from cutbacks and furloughs, some educators are living high on the hog.

You got it right ... according to this article, some educators are overpaid.

The article lists -- by name -- the top 90 public school salaries in our county.

And there I am, yours truly, listed at #60.

Now before you jump to all kinds of conclusions about how loaded I must be, keep in mind that we are a very small county, smack dab between a university community and the Atlanta suburbs. And I have a doctorate, not terribly common in our school district.

Nowhere does the article mention advanced degrees or years of experience.

Our state is a non-union state, so the ONLY way for teachers to get a raise in pay is to get another degree. Or teach for a gazillion years. Both of which I have done.

And let me go on record here as saying the ONLY reason I got a doctorate was for the pay increase. It certainly wasn't for the respect. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. It wasn't for the title, because after almost six years, I haven't grown into being called "Dr." I'm thinking at this point that it ain't gonna happen.

Apparently my reward for having gone to college for about 10 years is having my name and salary printed in a newspaper, along with the implication that I'm making too much money and have not had to "suffer" in these tough economic times.

The news came from our outgoing governor this week that he wants to change teacher pay, to reward teachers based on students' performance rather than advanced degrees. Fine, but the devil is in the details. I am confident that I would still do all right if the achievements of my students were used to determine my pay. What achievements, however, are they going to use?

Graduation test scores? The same graduation tests they are talking about phasing out over the next few years?

End-of-course tests? Only two courses in each subject area HAVE state-mandated end-of-course tests. What about students in the other courses?

What about other areas in which students don't take standardized tests? How are special education teachers going to be evaluated, based on their students' performance? Foreign language teachers? P.E. teachers?

Yeah, good luck with that, Sonny.

I'm not even THAT worried about the proposal to pay teachers based on student performance. For one thing, I just don't think it's gonna fly. For another thing, our governor is in his last year and can't run for reelection. And finally, while it may sound extremely selfish, the new plan -- whatever form it may take -- goes into effect two years after I'm planning to retire. Think I'm going to continue to teach after I'm eligible to retire?


Most of the names up there with mine belong to principals and other administrators, head football coaches, and folks who teach on an extended year schedule and/or an extended day schedule. Yeah, they neglected to mention those facts too.

This newspaper article has made me feel icky all afternoon. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It's not so much a matter of my salary being published for all the world to see, because teacher salaries are a matter of public record anyway. Anyone with enough time on his or her hands can find out what any teacher in the state makes. First of all, of course, that person must also be interested.

What has bothered me is the intimation that perhaps I don't deserve the salary I get. Like I just wandered up to a human resources person one day, and she said, "Here, let's pay you this much, just because we happen to like open-toed pumps and red dresses with polka dot trim."

Oh, and did I mention that after 20 years, an educator in our county "tops out" on the salary scale? If one chooses to retire upon reaching the 30-year minimum, that means that for the last 10 years of his/her career, there are no step increases. Only cost-of-living increases, if those even exist.

I was putting in some pretend dates (and some real ones) for my retirement last weekend, just playing around with a retirement predictor. In our state, your retirement pay is 60% of the average of your highest two years during your teaching career. For every scenario I put in, my highest two years were 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. What does that tell you? My salary has been going DOWN for the last couple of years. Anybody notice prices going down?

Another thing the newspaper article didn't take into consideration with these salaries is the furlough days that we have been socked with, with even more to come. Instead it hinted that we haven't been subjected to the furloughs that other public workers have had.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I love most of the teenagers with whom I work every day, and I especially love the fact that I work in a non-traditional environment with at-risk students. I love seeing a student who came to us as a drop-out walk across that stage at graduation to receive a real diploma. I love seeing the faces of the teachers who taught them in traditional school as they elbow each other and ask, "He GRADUATED? She FINISHED?"

Those 442 school days can't pass quickly enough.


KatyDid53 said...

You WILL be writing a letter to the editor, won't you?

Regina Phalange said...

well said, my friend.

Oh, and you need to lie to me and say that the PhD comes with respect - cause I'm sure not doing it for a pay increase! :o)

Evil Pixie said...

This doesn't surprise me. It is amazing how some people want to create controversy where none exists. It is really bad in today's media. I use to be a journalist and when I went to school, it was all about reporting the truth. Now it is selling the story for financial gain. The more controversy they can stir up without having to pull in the attorneys, the better. It's disgusting.