• Teacher

By John Spiegelhoff and Dale Moerke

Communities do not operate in isolation. Quite the opposite is true. We rely upon one another, celebrate the talents we all bring to our community and appreciate the professions which nurture the next generation.

So why has it become political sport to malign the teaching professionals which we entrust our children to each and every day?

Recently, one politician said the following about teachers: “If I were king in America, I would abolish all teachers’ lounges where they sit together and worry about “woe is us.”

Placed in a larger context, this is another attack on public education and the dedicated professionals who also live, work and contribute to our community. We must reject this divisive rhetoric and demand better from those who espouse this belief system.

Some politicians erroneously believe and purposely deceive the public with the false narrative that teachers are living in the lap of luxury. Nothing can be further from the truth.

First off, look around your neighborhood—chances are that a teacher lives near you. I suspect they do not drive a Mercedes Benz nor live in a mansion. They live modestly, like you do.

More importantly, politicians like to demonize what teachers receive for their hard work and long hours.

Let’s put this into perspective. How much would teachers earn if they were paid on an hourly basis consistent with the average hourly rate for child care?

Most teachers have a classroom size of 25 students. Each class is one hour long, and they teach six classes per day. There are 180 student instruction days each year. So if the going price for child care is $4/hour, a teacher would have an annual salary of $108,000 ($4x25x6x180).

But we all know that teachers do not make $108,000 a year. The average starting salary is $35,000 for a new teacher. This figure also does not take into account the hours teachers spend at their home preparing lessons, correcting homework, or their involvement after school with coaching or extracurricular activities.

When you dig down deeper, the attacks on teachers are truly really related to the following:

  • The dismantling of our proud public school system and replacing it with a private voucher school system (paid for by our tax dollars) that is solely profit-driven and unaccountable to the citizenry.
  • The elimination of collective bargaining rights for teachers so they do not have a voice in their workplace for both themselves and our children that they teach.
  • Misogynistic in nature, as the vast majority in the teaching profession are female.

So the next time when you hear a politician disparage teachers, think about those dedicated teachers in your community who nurture and educate your children. Then ask those politicians who hold this belief system how they have made your life and your community better. Chances are you will hear crickets chirp.

(John Spiegelhoff is an AFSCME labor representative who resides in Worthington, MN. Dale Moerke of Luverne, MN., is employed by the Western Minnesota/Red River Valley Area Labor Council.)