“An analysis of decennial Census data clearly shows that over the past 60 years the annual pay teachers receive has fallen sharply in relation to the annual pay of other workers with college degrees. The mid- to late 1990s, a period of vigorous national economic growth, was a particularly bad time for teacher pay relative to the pay of other occupations” (Teacher Pay 1940-2000: Losing Ground, Losing Status).
Ma says some politicians, especially republican politicians, blame teachers for the collapse of our education system which, to her headphones, is like blaming Superman for his superpowers rather than rewarding him. Ma says republican politicians are kryptonite because they’re forcing teachers to pay for the budget crisis affecting many states while they cut taxes for the wealthy and large businesses.
Ma says, “if they take the kryptonite off teachers’ necks, the true power of supermen and women will be unleashed. Ta-dah!”
For example, ma mad read this morning that Florida Gollum Governor Rick Scott and the republican legislature imposed a 3 percent pay cut on all teachers to help fill the budget hole (Miami Herald). Ma says the politicians should be used to fill that hole. “Sell your cars”, ma shouts at me as coffee spurts out of her mouth like a barrage of bullets from semi-automatic weapon. “Pass me the milk”, she grunts.
The teacher’s union is now suing Rick Scott but Wisconsin’s republican governor and legislature have forced teachers to accept pay cuts or they would lose their collective bargaining rights (Outside the Beltway).
Ma asks: “What’s left to give when we got nothing left to give but our pantyhose?”
While it is true that states are facing big budget troubles ahead, it is also true that some of these states are cutting taxes for the rich while making the rest of the population, including teachers, firefighters, and police officers, pay for the budget shortfall. In effect, the working-class are paying for the economic crises caused by the wealthy, by the banks and by risky, irresponsible traders, which was all made possible by deregulation of the banking industry.
“What’s your point?”, I ask ma. She looks at me like I’m Katy Perry. “What’s your point?”, I ask again and that’s when ma points at my fat head. “The point is”, she says, “you don’t know nothing because your teachers get paid nothing”.
It is true that bad teachers are probably not good educators just like good teachers are probably good educators. It is also true that bad pay probably doesn’t attract good educators just like good pay probably attracts good doctors, lawyers and bankers. What rational human being would spend $100,000 on an undergraduate and graduate degree for a job that pays $30,000 – $60,000 a year when they can earn twice that amount in another field? What rational human being would care more about their job after the boss cuts their pay and benefits? What kind of human being cuts the pay and benefits for the people who educate the children who will have a direct impact on our future well-being?
“Republicans do”, ma says, “because they only think about the present. Because they only care about what is and not what they will cause. The effects, for them, are bubbles.”
I laugh but ma doesn’t laugh. She just points to her t-shirt: “You get what you pay for!”
According to the NEA, “By 2000, the average female with four years of college made 16.4 percent more than the average female teacher and the average male with four years of college made a whopping 60.4 percent more than the average male teacher. When the average earnings of male and female teachers are combined and compared with the average pay of all non-teachers with at least four years of college, the difference is 53.5 percent in the year 2000. This actually understates the pay gap because a large proportion of teachers have master’s degrees, making them more educated than their comparison group” (Teacher Pay 1940-2000: Losing Ground, Losing Status).
Before ma leaves for work in her best non-dress dress, she tells me I should never become a teacher. “Be a lawyer or doctor. Be a scientist or an astronaut. Be something valuable and worthy”.
“Okie-donkey,” I say.
“And become a man too,” she says. “They get paid more than people like you and me.”
I tell ma that I am a man. She laughs, points at my Katy Perry t-shirt, and then slams the front door shut.