Last month, Washington State Representative Liz Pike wrote an open letter to teachers telling us to enjoy our summer vacation and to stop complaining about our salary and benefits. You can read her letter here. You can read the Huffington Post article about it here.
Here is my open letter to Representative Liz Pike
I pay taxes too. I contribute to my own salary. That seems a little backwards, but I don’t hear teachers or other public employees complaining about that. Most of us a pretty happy to pay our taxes that pays our salary, ensures great learning conditions for our students, and provides all of us a litany of other necessary services.
I don’t really have breaks, vacations, or summers off. I have a contract that specifies I work 192 days a year. I am not paid for spring break; I am not paid for summer. In fact, I really can’t afford to have that as “time-off” either. I attend conferences to improve my skills as an educator, I spend countless hours preparing for the next school year, I take classes to improve both my content knowledge and pedagogy. Most of these things I do to make me a better teacher, I pay for out of my own pocket, and again, I am more than happy to do so.
Representative Pike, you are wrong about unions. In countries that “out perform” us in international rankings, you will find there’s a common thread—active teacher unionism. If you look at Finland, one of the top performing countries, you will see an entirely unionized professional teaching workforce. There is no “right-to-work” (for less) law. There are highly respected teachers that use their union to advocate for best practices such as teacher collaboration and meaningful professional development. Don’t use data to form conclusions without exploring what that data is showing.
I am pretty comfortable with my salary and benefits package. It certainly could improve, but it’s nothing to shake a stick at. My heart breaks for my colleagues that are working for a salary that is significantly less than mine and still have all the same obligations that I do. My blood boils for my brothers and sisters that are paraeducators that don’t even make a living wage and are just as important as I am in your children’s education. I know paraeducators that each pay period OWE THE DISTRICT MONEY to cover their very basic health insurance package. Where is your disgust at this, Representative Pike?
Representative Pike, there’s another major problem in what you have to say. Every year, thousands of inspiring teachers are leaving the classroom. Part of it is, yes, they can’t afford to live their lives on the salary they are given. Another major factor is the constant barrage of unfair attacks against their profession. Are there bad teachers out there? Certainly. There are also bad principals, administrators, and superintendents. In fact, there are bad legislators out there too that pass bad policies and block good ones. In what is entirely my opinion, legislators are elected by public to improve public life. Public education is the bedrock of that public life, and you have a duty to support it.
Is our public education system fatally broken? Absolutely not. Are there problems with it? Absolutely. Instead of slashing away at it and leveling unfounded criticism at the system and its practitioners, why don't you engage education professionals in a dialogue on how to improve it? You and a ridiculous amount of other people's attacks on teaching is nothing more than argle-bargle-- adding nothing to the public discourse on what is best for students in our country. Without public education we would not be enable to ensure that every person in our country had equal access to your e-mail signature—“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”