Teachers, Superintendents, and School Boards -
While I may not address them in that particular order, it is quite obvious that these three subjects are quite the topic of discussion in the past week or so, at least from the posts to the opinion column, if nothing else. So here’s my take:
Superintendents: There’s a lot of outrage over our superintendent’s new pay raise. Let me tell you, the only people in Hamilton County that have anything close to the burden of responsibility of Rick Smith are the mayors of Chattanooga and Hamilton County. Rick deserves every penny he makes for his relentless 24/7 job. Does he deserve to make more than the mayors? Maybe not, but that’s not my call. If that presents an issue, somebody make a proposal that equalizes all three of their salaries. While we’re on the subject of responsibility vs. salary, let me also say that the principals in Hamilton County also earn every cent they’re paid. For those of you that think otherwise, I’m sure Rick would be more than glad to give you that $75,000 principal salary if you can run a school for a year. Sound easy? Try it.
Which brings me to the teachers. While I do appreciate the outrage in the opinions over school teachers needing a raise, it’s obvious the more outspoken elected officials on our school board and county commission think otherwise, especially when looking at their voting record. Last raise was when? If you look at that public listing of salaries of $60,000 or more that everybody seems to fixate on, you’ll notice that there are maybe three or four teachers at most that make the list. That’s three or four out of the hundreds of teachers in Hamilton County. In order to do so, you need a minimum of 28 years experience, a master’s degree or better, an 11 month contract and coaching supplements. Now business people out there, if you’ve got 30 years experience in your field and an MBA or master’s degree and you’re making $60,000 a year or less, let’s face it, you’re at the bottom of the barrel.
However, thanks to our state school board and their new teacher salary schedule (thank you Kevin Huffman), in 5-10 years, teachers may end up being the highest paid individuals in the work force. Why? They’ll be an endangered species. The state school board bought Huffman's snake oil pitch that by lowering teacher salaries, the local school boards could raise teacher pay based on what they deemed best, be it student achievement (test scores), experience, education, etc. and teachers would have the opportunity to earn even more than they do now. Hmm… great idea. How do you think our school board and county commission will handle that? Does the phrase “minimum standard” sound about right? It goes right along with that familiar philosophy of “low bid” all too apparent around here.
Huffman may actually have it right, though. I come from a family of teachers and nurses. Nurses are in high demand, and they can easily make twice what a teacher makes with the same education. So, how about incentive pay for nurses? The more patients you see, the more money you make. The mortality rate in ICU affects your salary positively or negatively. Will that fly? Of course not - but that’s exactly what they’re asking of teachers. In 5-10 years, teachers will be so few and far between, we will have to pay them whatever exorbitant salary will convince them to enter or stay in the profession. Think I’m wrong? Ask any teacher you know how many years they have till retirement. Trust me, they’re all counting at this point.