Tim Hunt's column for the Bay Area News Group chastised teachers unions for their posturing this week. Read it for yourself, here:
The San Jose Mercury News editorial, on the other hand, said that teachers were right to organize protests to draw attention to the plight of California schools. Read it for yourself, here:
While these commentators evaluate the actions of teachers and their unions differently, they share a hope that classrooms can be partially insulated from the impact of cuts to school budgets. They encourage teachers to help cushion the children, and preserve some of their colleagues' jobs.
Hunt concludes as follows:
"The challenge for school districts is to approach tough times like Fed-Ex does, instead of like manufacturers who simply slow production and layoff people. Fed-Ex must continue to deliver its routes so layoffs are limited. Instead, the leadership took 10 percent salary cuts, while the rank and file took 5 percent. All shared the pain to keep the company strong."
Similarly, the Mercury News editors suggest a shared sacrifice, but not such a deep one. They call for a pay cut of 1.5 rather than 5 percent, in the form of a freeze for at least one year of stem and column increases. The editorial also points out the possibility of taking furloughs on professional development days or renegotiating health benefits.
From where I sit, teachers already sacrifice plenty. They work at a pace at least as frenzied as other professionals like accountants, lawyers, and doctors, but for far less salary. They give more of their time than is reasonable to help students, because they know that if they don't, those kids could get left further and further behind. They share techniques that work with other teachers, and seek out new approaches on their own time and throughout their careers.
I think I do my share, as a parent and a taxpayer, but I can tell that the status quo will not be enough for next fall. Already, I am digging deeper, and next year I will volunteer more hours in our schools. But the numbers of us who can volunteer, because we have flexible hours or part-time jobs, are dwindling. As a volunteer, I cannot replace a reading specialist, computer technician, librarian, or counselor.
Teachers know better than any others that the work that all the employees at a school do together is important. They know the value of their team. As the APT negotiates with the school district in Pleasanton, I hope APT members will consider demonstrating your respect for your coworkers with jobs on the line. A tangible financial sacrifice offered at the negotiating table is a way to show solidarity. Whether that is accepting furlough days, freezing step-and-column, or shown in some other form, it help protect the educational climate when school starts next fall.
Negotiations begin behind closed doors, of course. When it's time to share details of the proposed contracts with the public, I hope our community can show respect as they debate the APT's proposals.