Pulling down a generous salary is generally not the reason most people decide to become teachers. Rather, they may be heeding some inner call to make a difference in the lives of young people, sending them off well-equipped for the future and maybe years later hearing a thank-you for a job well done.
But, as the expression goes — and with apologies for making English teachers cringe — “that don’t feed the bulldog.”
Teachers, just like others on the job, have to concern themselves with earning a living. But, unlike the majority of the work force, they have a voice in what they are paid — as witnessed by this week’s announcement by the Frederick County Teacher’s Association that 68 percent of its members who voted, rejected what their bosses were willing to pay.
Although teachers would not have received a cost-of-living salary increase, under the offer they would have had step increases beginning in December. A step increase for the full year would have raised the pay for eligible employees by 3.5 percent. But the union said teachers would likely receive about three-fourths of a percent more in their paychecks because the pay hike wouldn’t kick in until almost midway through the school year.
FCTA president Gary Brennan said teachers rejected the offer because they thought the board could do better.
Few would argue that teachers should not be highly valued. When the work-to-rule decision was instituted in March, for instance, you can bet there were still teachers who did not turn their backs on students needing their help outside the work day. But the hard reality is we’re still in a tough economy. The private sector has been faced with furloughs, layoffs, paying more for health insurance and going even longer without a raise than the three years experienced by teachers. Plus, counties are about to get clobbered with increased teacher pension costs, which will mean added havoc to budgets.
By all indications, the county commissioners are not about to fork over any additional money to the school board to fund higher salaries. If the commissioners couldn’t be swayed by ministers and the heads of nonprofits, they’re not going to change their tune for the teachers. And, if the school board took the route of trying to find paycheck money in their budget, which programs would then have to suffer?
The vote taken by the majority of teachers was perhaps cast out of frustration — there’s more than enough of that going around in other sectors of the work force — but it’s hoped the union and school board can sit down and reach a compromise so arbitration and a mediation route can be avoided.