Self-centered Teachers

Readers write

May 12, 1991

From: Todd Brace

Ellicott City

An open letter to the Howard County Council:

There are some basic rules in life one must observe: You can't fight mom, apple pie orthe PTA requesting restoration of proposed budget cuts to the schoolsystem.

However, being a county employee likely to be affected bythe next potential round of layoffs, being a parent of two children in the Howard County school system, being a former schoolteacher, and, finally, being an individual whose job is to assist individuals facing the crisis of a layoff, I would like to shed a slightly differentlight on the rhetoric that has been in overabundance lately.

The organized teachers' arguments in favor of retaining their rights to a6 percent raise seems to rest on two points: "a contract is a contract" and "education will suffer." Interestingly, this is the order in which they generally present their arguments.

Concerning the contract issue: I would be very surprised if the contract held sacrosanct by the teachers does not contain some language providing for the raise only in the event of available funds.

This is standard contractual language when dealing with "soft"

money (i.e. money secured through tax revenues). Having written a great many such agreements with 10 school districts in Maryland, I know one does not make "hard" promises with "soft" money.

If indeed the language does exist, then the issue is not as clear-cut as teachers would have you believe. The funds are not available without cutting services (and jobs) from otherdepartments.

If there were any fat in the budget, it has been cut. The next cut goes to the bone.

Police and fire services, which escaped basically untouched last time, probably won't be so lucky the next time. Services to the elderly, the unemployed, the poor, the handicapped and the general citizenry will be profoundly affected.

Inaddition to the county employees already laid off and ones potentially losing their jobs if the teachers get their raise, our agency (theEmployment Training Center) has been made aware of 600 recent or impending layoffs in Howard County in the private sector.

These are all individuals who will require the services to be cut if other departments bear the brunt of the budget crisis.

There is a great deal of industry research and data tracking on dislocated workers. A certain percentage will never fully regain

their earning potential; a percentage will be forced to move. Some will lose their homes; many will experience spousal and family abuse, drugs and alcohol problems, mental illness and worse.

A percentage will never be re-employed. Frankly, I am not at all comfortable with the teachers' ability to identify a child who may be struggling in school due to problems at homewith a laid-off parent, let alone taking appropriate action to help the child.

While discussing the nebulous contract issue, I remind you that some of the benefits taken away from the remaining county employees were required by law and required special legislation to withdraw them.

Contracts come in many forms, and county employees havesome legitimacy to claims of violation of hiring agreements.

As far as the "education will suffer" issue is concerned, the vagueness of the stand is what concerns me most. Are the teachers attacking the loss of school materials and support staff with the same vigor as theloss of a possible raise? Not in the media.

They are saying quiteclearly the lack of raises will cause education to suffer, a hardly veiled threat to lower efficacy on their part.

The myopic approachthat the quality of education as measured by antiquated SAT scores and dubious MFT passage rates should outweigh the opportunity to teachour kids a practical lesson in citizenship and sense of community instressful times is hardly encouraging or impressive.

Instead the message is self-centeredness, reaffirming the "ME" generation.

At least the PTA, in its naivete, expresses its concern in the broad educational sense and not in the raise context.

The messages are clear: the need for expanding education should outweigh all other services, and the teachers' "need" for larger paychecks should outweigh the county employees' need for a paycheck at all.

Ask a teacher about Maslov's Hierarchy of Need; it is fundamental to teaching methods courses. The "let them eat cake" attitude of the teacher quoted as saying that if she didn't get her raise she couldn't buy her new van this summer borders on goulash.

Finally, teachers and their supporters point to the formal training required and attempt to make a correlation to earning potential for comparable training in the private sector.

Sorry, but it doesn't fly. Many of the disciplines of the teachers have little or no value in the private sector. Music, art, history, social science, English and language teachers should be grateful that they are not paid according to their relative worth in the privatesector, regardless of training.

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