Throughout the Wisconsin demonstrations over Governor Walker’s attempt to end collective bargaining for union workers, there has been a steady chorus of know-nothing anti-union people decrying the importance, necessity, and work ethic of union labor in general, and public school teachers in particular. By now it is clear that Walker is out to break labor unions in Wisconsin.
In December, Walker said he wanted to meet with the teacher’s union to renegotiate their wage, benefits, and pension contract to mitigate the budget deficit the state was facing. The union negotiated in good faith with Walker and made concessions that gave him everything he asked for. At the time, the state had a surplus that Walker squandered as soon as he took office by giving tax breaks to corporations like Koch Industries which sent the state budget into a deficit. The next move Walker made was a bill that eliminated organized labor’s collective bargaining arrangement with the state that started the protests and demonstrations.
Being a good God-fearing Christian, Walker began lying to the public that the unions (all but police and firefighter unions) were costing the state too much and that by ending collective bargaining, the state would magically be flush with money. He singled out the teacher’s union for his wrath because there is a public misconception that anyone can teach and that the teachers were making too much in wages and pensions for the state to afford.
It is clear that Walker, and indeed the general public, have no idea what teaching entails except that teachers are just overpaid babysitters who work half the time that private sector employees do and are draining valuable state and federal resources that could be better spent on oil subsidies and tax cuts for the rich. There have been letters to the editor and pundits claiming that teachers make over $200,000 per year and are drawing more than that in unpaid lifetime pensions. This author has taught in private, religious, and public schools and there is a stark contrast in the standards and performance expectations between private and public schools.
Most people are not aware that teachers do not get to pick which students they teach or which curriculum to present. Each state sets the curriculum that a teacher is required to follow and schools closely monitor every course and teacher to be sure they follow the curriculum and are meeting the needs of every student whether academically gifted or developmentally challenged. There is no wriggle room for a teacher to vary the curriculum because of state benchmark tests to measure student progress and teacher compliance.
Add to that the fact that teachers are evaluated by school administrators and district representatives to assess their proficiency at instruction, classroom management, and adherence to district, state, and federal standards. Private sector jobs are not subject to the rigorous assessment by officials who can terminate them for non-compliance or poor performance. Although there is a misconception that once a teacher is granted tenure they can never be fired, nothing is further from the truth. Tenure means a teacher cannot be terminated without cause and due process.
Due process is the administrator writing on a form that the teacher was terminated for lack of budget, non-compliance with state standards, poor classroom management, or poor performance by students on standardized tests. There is no teacher who is immune from termination regardless of tenure; they just have to be given a reason for termination and they are fired.
There is also a complaint that public school teachers only work three-quarters of a year unlike private sector employees. School teachers normally work a minimum of 9.5 hours a day at the school site, and often work though their lunch breaks as well as many more hours at home and on weekends. Private sector employees work 8 hour days and get overtime pay after that, and on their days off and at night, they don’t work at all. School teachers work on average 3.5 hours after school correcting daily work and planning for the next day, and on weekends spend between 8 and 12 hours correcting tests, projects, and planning the following week’s activities.
If a tenured teacher’s salary was calculated using the number of hours worked, most are making much less than a nurse with a two-year degree, and much less than a business person with 6 years of education.
Teachers also have to spend their own money to continue their training and education every year just to keep their jobs. Teachers generally spend at least 6 years in college and one year for a teaching credential making them the lowest paid professionals with regard to education. The starting salary in California for a teacher with a Master’s degree and teaching credential is $32,000 to $36,000 per year. With regard to pensions, teachers contribute a higher percentage than Social Security but risk losing their investment when the stock market drops; if it rises, they do not enjoy added retirement income.
School teachers do a service for the community that most people do not appreciate the way they do nurses and firefighters who make much more money. Teachers also have to put up with angry parents who do not do reinforce the importance of school and think their child should get high marks for being cute or good athletes. When schools do not meet federal testing requirements, the criticism is always aimed at the teacher and not at the parents; or school administrators who make between 6 – 8 times as much as teachers.
Although there are so many negative aspects to teaching, most educators are passionate and committed to helping children learn and become good citizens. This author has never known a teacher who did not agonize over a child who was struggling with school or trouble at home.
Governor Walker is doing a disservice to the teaching profession by demonizing them as leeches on society who are solely responsible for Wisconsin’s budget problem he created. Walker also does a disservice by asking the teacher’s union to make concessions which they acquiesced to, and then attempting to eliminate the collective bargaining arrangement.
It is well documented that Scott Walker is a liar, bad at math, and a bad citizen for misleading the people of Wisconsin. It is obvious to this educator that Scott Walker did not attend a public school because if he did, he would have learned that if you give a surplus to oil companies, you have a deficit, and he would have learned that a liar is not a good citizen.
It’s apparent that Scott Walker would fail in today’s public school system and his teachers would be devastated that he refused to learn morals and ethics that teachers instill in their students. This author gives Walker a failing grade and an unsatisfactory mark for citizenship; if there was still corporal punishment, he would get a serious spanking.