Saturday, January 31, 2009


Here's another excellent editorial about the Roxbury Teacher Contract settlement...this one's from the Star-Ledger. It's followed by a one of the comments posted in response which I think represents how the vast majority of people view the teaching profession in the 21st century.

Roxbury is out step with teacher pay hike
Posted by The Star-Ledger Editorial Board January 30, 2009 5:30AM

Guess the recession hasn't hit Roxbury yet.

On Monday, in one of the state's first teacher contract agreements of the year, the township's board of education handed the district's teachers a four-year pact with raises of 4.3 percent (retroactive to last year) and 4.7 percent for each of the next three years.

That's a 19.7 percent raise over the length of the contract.

And that's irresponsible.

On the same day more than 50,000 jobs cuts were announced nationally, with the country and state in the grip of a recession, the Roxbury school board handed out increases that most taxpayers who work in the private sector certainly won't see this year or next -- if they can even keep their jobs.

If this is where New Jersey teacher contracts are headed this year, jittery and cash-strapped taxpayers had better send a message to their school boards now: Hold the line.

School boards, of course, want to do what's best for the kids. And most board members don't have the stomach to head down the bumpy road of a protracted contract battle, with added legal fees, fact-finding and a possible strike. So they settle.

But school boards also have to serve the taxpayers, who right now are seeing their earning power and property values going down. Some school board, somewhere, has to draw the line. Who will step up? Not Roxbury.

"Roxbury will no longer have one of the lowest starting salaries in Morris County," board member Pat Miller crowed proudly while approving the deal.

Hey, Miller, you've been duped.

You see, that's the New Jersey Education Association's game. The union scares the lower-paying districts into believing they won't attract good teachers unless they agree to oversize raises. Then, the NJEA moves on to the next lower-paying district with the same argument. It becomes a game of leap-frog as every district tries to be above average.

Gov. Jon Corzine has already warned that aid to schools may have to be cut to balance the state budget. Roxbury gets only one-fifth of its budget covered by the state, and can't expect any more help there. So where will the money come from for the teachers' raises if not higher local taxes? Or will some student programs have to be sacrificed?

This is not about whether teachers are overpaid or underpaid. That's endlessly debatable, but it all comes down to the public's ability to pay. And right now that's being squeezed.

One more thing: With all the layoffs in other industries, more workers are looking to enter the teaching ranks. Many would have jumped at $39,500 (with benefits and summers off) -- the former starting salary in Roxbury.

But the starting salary -- the smallest salary earned by the smallest number of teachers -- is a smoke screen used to make any contract more palatable. The median salary for Roxbury teachers in 2007-08 was $57,895. That number is more relevant. And by the end of the contact, it will be $69,305.

How many taxpayers expect to be making almost $12,000 more in three years?

We applaud Maureen Castriotta, the only dissenter in the 8-1 vote. She realized those raises in this economy are just plain silly.

"Did we spend wisely? No," she said. "Did we improve student achievement? No. We're in an economic crisis, but you'd never know it from this contract. People have to wake up."

Posted by thr3putt on 02/01/09 at 9:06AM

First of all, the correct way to calculate the salary increases would be to multiply the original salary by .043, then add that amount to the original salary. Then multiply that new total amount by .047 and add that, and do that two more times. The numbers are correct.

Next, the point of the editorial, if I understand the message, isn't whether teachers are underpaid, it's the ability of the public to pay at this moment. When the taxpayers, who foot the bill, are losing jobs and homes, don't the teachers have an obligation to take less? (Of course not, it's a powerful union, right? They don't care what is happening around them. They want as much as they can get.) When times are good, teachers get raises that are better than average in private industry (and don't use Wall Street as an example to prove me wrong, please; go back and look at some of the 8 and 9 percent raies awarded to teachers); and when times are bad, teachers, as we see, do far better than average.

And then there's the T-word. Yup, I said it. Who else has tenure? What is that worth? What is it value of never having to take a pay cut? Each year, a teacher's salary grows. Who among us can say they have never had to take a step back in their careers when it comes to earnings? What is that job security worth? Like health benefits, there's a monetary value to tenure, and it's considerable. What is it? Tack that onto the salary and benefits to get a real dollar amount. But teachers don't want to talk about that.

One poster commented about the "pressure" and "scrutiny" of being a teacher. But that's just it. With tenure, there is no real pressure or scrutiny. If you're not in danger of losing your job for poor performance, what real scrutiny are you talking about? The rest of us, in the real world, can be fired at any time, for almost any reason, especially job performance. That can't happen to a teacher, basically short of a sexual felony.

That same poster challenged the writer to come up with a one-day lesson and teach it, on which the editorial writer would be graded. Silly, isn't it? Since that's not his/her profession. It's a good thing the editorial writer didn't target brain surgeons.

While studies show that most workers' days/weeks are growing in the numbers of hours worked, teachers time in the classroom is dwindling. And, with several friends who are teachers, I can tell you, it's less than 6.5 hours per day, as the poster commented. And many teachers use sick days as paid holidays.

Yes, I wrote this. Yes, it's in sentences, so I thank all my English teachers. But to say that they deserve exorbitant raises in a recession because of it is silly. And what about the people who were in the same classes who can't write a sentence or spell or use correct grammar now? Should we dock teachers for them? My belief is there are far more of those than there are of me. So that argument fails, too.

If teachers don't like their jobs, here's a solution -- get a new one. Just quit whining about the pay. If they think it will be more rewarding, they should go be a plumber. They selected this profession. The reason there are so many teachers is not because there are tens of thousands of generous souls who are willing to sacrifice for the good of mankind. That's naive. It's because teaching is not a bad way to make a living.

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