With the Teachers Strike Averted, Now Let's Solve the Real Problems

We've got to uncouple property taxes and teachers' salaries.

If there actually is a woman out there who’s had to put up with me almost as much as my longsuffering wife, it’s gotta be Chronicle Managing Editor Kathy Gresey. The sad thing is, unlike my beloved spouse, she didn’t sign on for the job.

For the record, Ms. Gresey, the only person on the planet with more energy than me, is a supremely talented journalist and editor. Given a bit more latitude, she could turn that newspaper into something really serious.

And the fact that my too-frequent attempts to goad her into seeing things my way are patently unfair hasn’t prevented me from pressing my point.

Now that you’re armed with that information, you’ll understand the irony of what I’m about to say. Because when I read Brenda Schory’s piece on the aftermath of the almost Geneva teachers strike, which specifically covered correspondence from regular Genevans, I immediately thought, “Yikes! I wouldn’t have gone there!”

There actually are cases where snoozing canines are best left in that prone position.

But maybe the Chronicle’s persistence in this post-negotiation regard is a good thing. As evidenced by the GEA’s continued pursuit of their specious unfair-labor-practice charge, some bad feelings still seem to be simmering just below the surface.

We may have covered the 10-to-1 pro-School-Board-sentiment split here, but the Chronicle took the time to delve into the content of those emails. The truth is, when most of your support comes from ex-students from whom you solicited that specific input, it really says something.

Though I’m not sure they’re willing to take that long look in the mirror, this revelation gives the union leaders an opportunity to see how poorly their strategy was received and a chance to make the necessary adjustments before the next negotiation.

It’s also important to note that, while many of the missives referred to “the teachers,” like most monoliths we create for simplicity’s sake, Geneva educators are by no means a mindless Pink Floyd-esque collective.

For where-angels-fear-to-tread reasons we won’t get into here, I firmly believe a strike never materialized because, not only did the GEA fail to win the hearts and minds of Genevans, but they didn’t do too well with their own teachers, either. They knew striking would mean having to explain some serious defections.

But now that the Chronicle and I have waded into these crocodile-infested waters, it’s time to move beyond the rancor. It’s time to turn our attention to the real reason homeowners are pitted against the teachers they generally hold in high regard in the first place.

The system!

As long as teachers’ salaries are primarily paid from property taxes, like the eternal biblical battle between good and evil, there will be conflict. It’s almost as if, for one brief moment, the politicians knew exactly what they were doing.

Weren’t the lottery proceeds supposed to go to education?

So instead of girding our loins for the next showdown, what school boards and teachers unions everywhere should be doing is descending upon Springfield and Washington, D.C., like locusts on a wheat field.

And my first suggestion would be to tie teacher salaries to a Wall Street transaction tax. Since they’re the nitwits who tanked the economy and, after leaving municipalities holding the real estate crash bag, went on to reap record profits, it’s only fair.

Not only would this kind of tithe give those mopes’ existence meaning, but this new dynamic would eliminate that natural homeowner-teacher contention.

Once that’s in place, we need to revamp and simplify the whole teacher-compensation-and-benefits structure. And that starts with eliminating tenure, step and lanes, pensions, paying for continuing education, and guaranteed annual raises.

Ah! But considering the vast educational requirements, what that means is teachers should get at least $75,000 to start. That kind of salary will most certainly attract quality candidates, and it gives educators the means to set up their own retirement funds. Within the bounds of reason—we all know parental support is critical—salary increases should be tied to some measure of performance.

Again, reviewing the terms of struggle is almost always a worthy endeavor, but if we don’t learn from that conflict, then we’re bound to repeat it. You see, we Americans have a nasty habit of doing our darnedest to address the symptoms while completely ignoring the underlying disease.

With this hard-fought contract fracas finally behind us, let’s avail ourselves of the kind of foresight that will address and solve the real problem.


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Colin C. December 17, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Good idea Jeff. A number of economists have proposed the transaction tax as a means of calming the computer trading frenzy that makes today's markets so unstable in the first place. We could also consider capital gains taxes. I like the idea of those who profit from an educated population paying a bit more toward education. I would not want to leave school funding in the hands of Springfield or any other governmental body. It has to be indexed and automatic. As to reform, the revolution that will completely change the way that education is done is just beginning. It is being driven by people who are completely outside the public educational establishment. I am following this fairly closely and can only predict that we will not recognize education in thirty years. Let's just say that the need for brick and mortar schools, age group classes, tests and grading, and teachers (in their current roles) may be largely eliminated while total mastery of each subject by each student will become possible. I do think that costs may well come down considerably as efficiencies increase, but that's material for another column or three. It would be nice to see the Geneva schools doing more to lead the way in this revolution but I doubt that they will.


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