Saturday, July 23, 2011

Teachers in the Trenches!

When good teachers get tired of being demonized and scapegoated, their collective bargaining rights attacked or shredded, and are so adversely impacted by salary, benefit and retirement cuts they leave the profession, that negatively impacts education. Teachers can't pay their bills or live on their goodwill towards their students.

Lots of teachers in my district have retired or quit in the past few years. Many of them have left the state. Even more teachers are thinking about retiring or quitting, and many of them want to leave Nevada. Teachers have been surplused, RIF'd. The Clark County, Nevada unemployement rate is about 14%, and we are #1 in the nation in foreclosures. Teachers are a part of these statistics, too. There are teachers living on food stamps. Teachers are also now homeless.

After our salaries were frozen for the past couple of years, my school district has now decided to unilaterally cut our salaries beginning this month, going against our negotiated contract. They also want to get rid of our health trust in favor of a less-expensive (for them), lower quality of care provider. This will increase my monthly premiums to almost match my mortgage payment! I'm unable to afford this, so if they get away with this, I'll be joining the ranks of the tens of millions of medically uninsured Americans.

Teachers have to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in school loans for our education degrees. We also pay thousands of dollars to acquire the additional education credits mandated by our state in order to maintain our licenses. In addition, we pay thousands of dollars out of our own pockets for additional education in order to meet the non-funded No Child Left Behind federally-mandated requirements in order to reach Highly Qualified status. We pay thousands of our own dollars in education to move over in salary scale so that we can finally attain a living wage. We supplement the education of our state's children out of our own pockets when we buy classroom supplies, and books for our classroom libraries. Food, energy and other prices have skyrocketed around us. Yet, we found we had no choice in good conscience but to agree to freeze our own pay for the past two years, due to State and District budget constraints, so that WE could save other teachers' jobs in order to keep our students' class sizes lower. Oh, and we also pay for our students' education with our own tax dollars. Then, we get asked to "share the sacrifice?" Really?!!!

If Nevada's Governor Sandoval and state legislators really want to attract new business to our state in order to diversify and improve our economy, look at how you're negatively impacting educators and education. Your bottom line shouldn't include cutting our children's education and their future by slashing their education funds and attacking their educators.

To all educators:
When people get pushed up against a wall, and they want to survive, they'll find any way they can to get around, under, or over the wall. Hopefully, they'll be smart enough to join together, help each other, and lift each other up to find a way to survive. When we all work together, we can accomplish miracles. When we fight each other, only a few win, and we create a lot of losers. It is when there are too many losers that organizations, societies and governments fall. History tends to repeat itself. Let's work to lift each other up for ourselves, our families, and our students.

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