I think teachers are the best bargain the state has when it comes to overall costs for any employee paid with state money. Teachers are contracted to work for 180 days. Are they paid out at the end of those 180 days of work? No, their pay is strung out over 12 months. So the state gets to hold onto the money, collecting interest on it before sending out summertime paychecks. The teachers don’t get a dime of that interest.
Teachers don’t have a paid vacation either. Unlike police and firefighters, teachers have no paid vacation. Well, you say, they have their summers off. No they don’t. Teachers have to take college courses to maintain their teaching certificates and the costs, both in time and money to do this, is paid out of the teacher’s salary with no reimbursement by the state or any other institution. Many teachers take on a part-time job or summer job or both to make ends meet because of the low salary they have to endure.
Firefighters put out fires, rescue frightened pets from trees and perform first aid on fallen citizens. Police arrest criminals, solve crimes and enforce the law. Neither firefighters nor police do their jobs 100 percent effectively. Fires destroy much property and criminals get away.
They both put their lives on the line for the communities they serve, but the bottom line is no one makes them do that. They are compensated highly for their efforts. They whimper like wusses and parade their crying families before the various governmental bodies when they are faced with layoffs because they won’t man up and collectively take a pay cut when the chips are down. Teachers are lucky to receive even a cost of living raise in their pay.
Teachers are given an imperfect raw material in the form of new students each year and then are expected to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Never mind that their students come from abusive homes, are mentally challenged in many ways, aren’t fed properly, have medical conditions that affect their scholastic performance and often have parents who aren’t highly educated themselves.
Teachers, you are expected to work miracles regardless of the condition students come to you in. We are not going to even pay you half of what a beginning deputy sheriff in Washoe County receives annually, but we are going to hold you accountable for the shortfalls your students experience when they do not perform well on standardized tests. You’re the miracle workers and by damn you better see to it that your students do well, or else.
Now, I ask you, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, are we being fair to our teachers as to their pay and working conditions? Are there some things in the educational system that need to be corrected? I say yes there are and those changes in expectations and compensation for our educators are long overdue. Teachers should not be the whipping boys for the societal ills that have caused the underachievement of the youth in our public education systems nationwide.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.