Thursday, May 19, 2011

I started school in North Central New Jersey.  I remember four different elementary schools there before moving to Miami in 1964 just in time to start sixth grade.  In Miami I finished elementary school, started junior high school in one school and finished it in another, and managed to go the whole course in the same high school, from which I graduated in 1971, the year cigarette advertising on television was banned, All in the Family premiered on CBS, John Lennon released ‘Imagine’ and the Miami Dolphins played the longest playoff game on NFL history, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs on the foot of Garo Yepremian on Christmas day.  Six hundred nine other notable things happened that year as well, give or take depending on your perspective.
Personally, I finished high school and entered junior college, from which I would graduate in December, 1973.
My eleventh grade English teacher told me that the average Miami Dade County Waste Collection Agent (we called them garbage men back then); the individual who picked up our weekly deposit of curbside (said tongue in cheek – our subdivision didn’t actually have curbs) waste and garbage; earned more money in a year than the average tenured Dade County High School teacher holding at least one advanced degree.  Think about it.  Forty years ago, an individual with minimal education – probably junior high school or less; often non-English speaking – made more money in a year picking up my leftover cornflakes and spent toilet paper rolls than an English teacher with a master’s degree in his or her field of expertise, and six to ten years of education, training and internship.
Admittedly, I cannot validate that claim.  I did some research and couldn’t find verifiable numbers one way or the other.  And please don’t read this with the impression that this educator was in any way disparaging the people who collect our refuse.  To the contrary, her point was this:  There is something wrong in a society that remunerates its waste disposal employees better than those charged with the education of is children.
According to, the current average salary for high school teachers in he United  States ranges from $34k to $52k annually, a gap of around eighteen thousand dollars.  In 1971, I was part of an experiment.  A new school, integrated by design, and for the best part, an educational success.  Eleven hundred in, over eighty-five% out.  And while teacher salaries were and are important, they were not the reason for the success of our class and our school.
Plain and simple, we had teachers who cared.  This was back in the days when a teacher still felt obligated to teach, and if you weren’t learning, they wanted to know why.  The teacher and not the student controlled the class room.  The teacher understood that if learning was to take place, the teacher had to teach.  The responsibility of ensuring that learning was taking place had not yet been delegated to the student.
But times, they is a changing.  No longer can a teacher use discipline in a classroom without fear of retaliation or a law suit.  Teachers demanded and took responsibility from a society  not yet brow beaten into submission by liberal left wing civil libertarians more concerned about political correctness than education,
Someone said ‘you won’t pass through my doors without a clear understanding of things like college and business English’, how two plus two equals four every time, how a British insurgency became a colonial settlement, why democracy as a form of government is superior to socialism, and just exactly why it was so damn important that Rosa Parks stayed on the bus.
That graduating class ‘got’ it because our teachers got it.  It wasn’t all about money. My high school’s graduating class of 2011 will be just a fraction above fifty percent of the one which began three years ago, and the Miami Dade school system that let this happen should all be fired and their salaries repaid.
I’m not saying all teachers care about today is the money, or that none of today’s teachers care, but it’s time the people responsible for the education of our most precious natural resource – our children – opened their eyes to the realization that you can’t let the fox in the henhouse and expect to find chickens there three years later.

Here's an update.  I live in Pasco County now instead od Metro-Dade County.  Tonight's news (like two minutes ago) announced that 470 public School teachers in Pasco County will not have jobs next year.  Sure, the obvious issue is 470 families losing in some case their primary source of income.  But the real victims here are 10,000 students who will be squeezed into already tight classes that already exceed the state mandated class size caps.

A school district that an independent 2009 study reports needs to HIRE an additional 250 teachers is instead laying off 470 making the net shortfall 720 teachers.

Nor does that take into account program cuts.

Average salary for Pasco County teachers is $43,302 where the Median family income is iust $39,568

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