On Monday, we finished discussing the equal and opposite reaction that holds true for everything in this Earthbound existence. To wit, the TaxFACTS people have been pummeling District 304 teachers and their salaries for years, so finally fed up, those educators appeared en masse at last week’s board meeting to make a point.
A green “United We Teach” T-shirt—eight bucks. Watching the FACTS folks stunned reaction to 200 teachers wearing ‘em—priceless.
But while I loved that measured TaxFACTS smackdown, I’m not quite as enamored of the logic the teachers used in their quest for an new contract with greater compensation.
But before we continue, since young , , crazy (and all her friends), , , my neighbors, , , Geneva parents, , the the , Fox Run, most downtown merchants and, oh yes, the FACTS folks are already on my case, please try to remember that no one has more than I have.
The last thing I need is to have teachers chew off what’s left of my sorry middle-aged posterior.
I’ll say it again, . If any of you want to get a real inkling of what it’s like, then get off you fat posterior and sign up to . For the full effect, I’d recommend starting with the Tri-Cities Soccer Association. You’ll never be the same.
It’s just that, on this particular point of order, I think you’re making a serious mistake. As I’ve already tried to explain to the FACTS folks, sometimes you have to surrender current goals for long-term gains or, more colloquially, sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war.
And this is one of those times.
So let’s take a closer look at that Geneva teachers’ pay hike logic.
“The Geneva school system is performing at the top,” one teacher said at the board meeting, “If we were in the private sector, and outperforming others in the same field, we would implement a compensation plan to attract, retain, reward and compensate at the top. But this is far from the case.”
Yikes! Were I an educator, the last thing I’d be doing is making private-sector comparisons. The truth is, you’re doing a heck of lot better than the vast majority of folks in the corporate world right now.
Doubt me? Look at what heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar just did to Joliet Local 851. Despite record profits, sales and revenues, they completely busted that union whose members, in the end, were only trying to hold onto what they already had.
With this unemployment rate, performance in the private sector doesn’t mean squat. Companies know they can get another equally talented employee with a snap of their fingers. If schools were privately run, your salaries and benefits would be cut, you’d have no tenure, and there would be no union.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at what St. Peter School pays their teachers.
Another teacher said they only want to bring their compensation in line with neighboring districts. That’s a reasonable argument when times are good. But when times aren’t good, it opens you up to the other side of it.
District 303 Superintendent Don Schlomann just told me he had 406 applications for one long-term substitute teacher position. Four hundred and six! With that many unemployed teachers, the last thing you want to do is start using “market forces” logic.
Again, a private company would simply let you strike, bring in bottom-of-the-pay-scale replacement teachers, and simply ignore the picket line until you went away. Don’t laugh! The government did it to air-traffic controllers.
And please don’t take this the wrong way, but I also have to say the “better student performance automatically equals better pay” hypothesis comes across as a bit disingenuous.
Again, let me state for the record that all of Geneva benefits from a boatload of exceptional teachers.
But when you consider my defense of teachers has always included laying the blame for failing children squarely at the feet of their irresponsible parents, then don’t we have to give them a little of the credit when their children succeed?
Fair is fair.
So here’s my thought: We, the residents of Geneva, took the hit and honored your contract when the economy collapsed and every other school district was firing their teachers and hiring them back at a lower rate. I understand the bullies are making it difficult to make concessions, but it’s your turn to share in the economic pain.
People are losing their homes.
Please ignore all the TaxFACTS shrieking and take one for the team. I’m thinking (or 1-1-1 if you need to save face) would be eminently reasonable. Then, during the next round of negotiations, when the economy will be much improved, you’ll hold all the political capital.
It’s time to think long-term
Whether you like it or not, it’s popular to demonize teachers right now. The state is essentially trying to strip you of your pensions. Some states are trying to take away your collective bargaining rights. Your choices now will affect teachers for years to come.
This right-wing temper tantrum will pass. They always do. Meanwhile, don’t give your detractors the ammunition to make those things a reality at a time when the rhetoric and unemployment rate is so high.
Don’t take TaxFACTS' bait.
GHS English teacher Brian Burns put it perfectly, “We need to find a way to come to an equitable solution, one which honors the professionalism of our teachers and acknowledges the sacrifices of the citizens. We can do this. If we fail, there are people in this community looking to exploit our failure and seek to maximize that failure to their own satisfaction.”