I play basketball during lunch time with a group of doctors, lawyers, and other people who can take long lunches, and I’m the only teacher in the group (during the summer and breaks I can play at least). While shooting around and warming up, somehow the conversation turned to the economy and one guy said that he’s surprised that teachers object so much to taking a bit of a hit “like everyone else.”
I wanted to ask him how much of a raise did teachers get during the economic boom of the 90s? And, why teachers have lost 35% of their buying power in the last 25-30 years? I then told him that teachers didn’t create this crisis, and we are constantly told we shouldn’t get paid as much as other professions for a host of reasons including that it’s “our calling.” And now, when those in power have screwed things up for the nation, we are asked to do even more with even less at the same time as when we’re told that we’re not doing enough?
Anyway, I did ask him how much he has cut his salary to help the economy (he’s a lawyer), and he said he hadn’t lowered his hourly rate. Everyone laughed a bit at him, and then we started to play some games.
Still, I couldn’t say how I felt any better than the NEA’s Teacher of the Year, Anthony Mullen, when he said the following (read the entire speech here):
We have become easy targets for some misguided government officials, economists, and media talking heads who believe it is time for us to give back and to share the pain.
Well, teachers and education support professionals have burdened the pain of being underpaid and overworked for too long. And since we have been given very little, we have nothing to give back. Teachers did not leave their classrooms and abandon children when the best deal in town was to work in the financial services sector. We did not join the legions of people that became wealthy by sitting in front of a computer and selling stocks and managing hedge funds. We did not envy friends and neighbors who prospered during the 1980s and 1990s and bought McMansions and took trips to Bali. No, we stayed with our students because we believe that education and our nation’s children are too valuable to be abandoned for a new sports car. So we accepted our meager raises. We worked harder to narrow the achievement gap and did more with less to help our nation prosper. And now, some of the very same people who once asked me how I could live on a teacher’s salary, are now asking me what I can do to help the economy.
And I tell these people two things: One, teachers did not crash the economy. Greed and corruption by people entrusted with our country’s financial health collapsed the economy.
P.S. I blocked that lawyer’s shot four times, which made me feel a lot better.