29 June 2005

- Teachers Have it Easy -

B* has a short post on Teachers Have it Easy, by Daved Eggers, Daniel Moulthrop, and Ninive Clements Calegari. The book addresses the issue of how hard teachers work and how little they are compensated for it.

A story: my father's first job was teaching middle school. This was in the early 1970s. Well, he was in a particularly stingy school district, and with the oil crisis, stagnation and general economic malaise during the period, the school board refused to raise salaries anywhere close to the rate of inflation. Thus, the paltry salary my dad had started with just became smaller and smaller. Mom tried to work on and off, but then as now child care options were expensive and extremely limited. I think my parents figured out that with the commute they were actually losing money. Dad took up working full time in the summer and nights during the fall to make ends meet. Actually, I think he made more working in the canning factory.

In any case, the canning factory only needed extra workers from late July through October, so every winter was tough going. After one particularly egregious school board meeting where one member said that teachers had it easy and were grossly overpaid, and the Board voted to freeze salaries, Mom was so furious that she decided to take matters into her own hands: she applied for food stamps. We qualified. Yes, teachers have it easy. Well, Mom made a point of using the food stamps at the local store and she wasn't shy about noting that Dad was indeed still teaching and yet we qualified for food stamps—not that she really had to: it was a small town of about 5000 so everyone knew our family and what Dad did.

As you can imagine, this didn't go down well at all with the School Board, which tried as hard as it could to discredit Mom and Dad, going so far as charging fraud on the food stamp application. The social service agent, however, confirmed that the application was accurate and the food stamps justified. Embarrased, the School Board backed down and agreed to a very modest pay increase.

Dad, however, was blackballed, coming under intense scrutiny not just by the board but the superintendent and his principal as well. Soon after, Dad began selling insurance on the side and, though he loved teaching, he was making so much more money that he quit and took up insurance full-time.

Yes, teachers have it easy, so easy.