By John Hubbuch
The high school's teachers and the District 200 school board announced agreement on a new two-year contract last week. The contract provides no pay increase in the 2012-2013 school year, and teacher compensation will be limited to step and lane increases the next year. As a skeptic, I must admit I was surprised, and as a taxpayer, I was pleased by what is clearly a good contract. Nice job by all parties.
Predictably, the electronic miasma we call online comments did not focus on the contract but rather the tired arguments and complaints that teachers make too much money. The great bogeyman for these complainers and whiners is "The Hundred Thousand Dollar Teacher." These folks just can't get their head around the concept that a kindergarten or biology teacher should make that much money.
Never mind that society has only recently begun to appreciate the value of an educated populace and workforce as the best and only way to a secure future. Increased pay for teachers was one way to attract the better and brighter into the profession. The days of paying teachers with a pittance, root vegetables and fresh baked pies have passed.
Never mind that the only teachers exceeding the $100,000 benchmark are those experienced teachers in their 50s and 60s who have been teaching for decades and have many hours of post-graduate credit beyond a master's degree. I dare say there are quite a few white collar workers with similar education and experience who make a similar salary.
There are number of criticisms of teacher compensation. None of them are very good. One is that teachers only have to work nine months a year. Actually, it's 10 months, but so what? Kobe Bryant only works six months a year. Farmers and construction workers don't do much in the winter. Mitt Romney doesn't work at all.And some teachers don't work very hard for their pay. Quite right. Neither does Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Boozer. I believe it is called a bell curve.
There's the argument that teachers have unions. Right. Unions are not the Mafia. They are collective bargaining units recognized by law and contract. Gone are the good old days when you could work children 12 hours a day for a couple of bucks. To be sure, the economic landscape is changing for unions. So be it. It's called history.
Then there's "teachers are paid by the taxpayers." So every two years, there are elections where these taxpayers get to vote for their representatives who negotiate the contract. If you think they're paying teachers too much, there's always the next election. That's probably better than having some Spawn of Satan boss arbitrarily set compensation.
Try this approach: In a capitalist society, people can do whatever job they can get. Unlike the planned economy of post WWII Russia or the medieval guild system, you have freedom of occupational choice. So whatever you are doing for a living now, you can go back to college and take some education classes and do a semester of student teaching. Then you can apply as one of say 50 seeking a job at OPRF. Then you can work for four years as a probationary teacher during which time you can be fired for almost anything. Then you can work for 30 years in a demanding, constantly changing workplace. While doing all this, you get your master's degree plus 45 more credit hours.
Then and only then you get to make a hundred thousand dollars a year.