Here’s an interesting idea: let’s have teachers work for free!
Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, in an effort to keep schools open, has asked teachers to finish out the school year on a volunteer basis. In our case, that would be at least half a month’s salary (although the latest talk in Prineville is of 10-20 more days cut, in addition to the 10 we’re cutting already. Worst case scenario: school ends at the end of April.)
But that’s where teachers would prove their undying commitment to children by donating a few thousand dollars worth of labor to keep the doors open. Teaching has often been compared to missionary work, and now the comparison might become more valid. Many teachers already have to find supplemental employment in the summertime to support their teaching habit (and take continuing education classes, as well.) New teachers with young families often qualify for free or reduced lunch in the district in which they teach (and many even qualify for food stamps.)
To his credit, Kulongoski has agreed to take a 5% pay cut, and is encouraging other state employees to do the same. The Governor is a great guy and has generally been an advocate for children and their education. He has told me personally that his top three priorities are education, education, and education. (I didn’t fully believe him, but education is probably in his top three.)
But I find his statement about teachers working for free to be a bit difficult to understand and digest. Almost certainly, unions will protest. And the public will be divided further between those who see teachers as overpaid, underworked whiners, and those who regard them as professionals who shape the future of our world.
Unfortunately, educators will again be caught in the trap between doing what’s best for children and doing what’s best for their own family’s livelihood. It’s becoming tougher and tougher to achieve balance.