Letters

Teachers Have It Good

May 09, 2018

To the Editor:

Any time a group of individuals goes no further than their own circle of friends to develop their views they lose perspective. It seems the teachers in Stafford have fallen into this trap. After reading the article “Board of Education Hears From Dozens of Angry Employees” (54/25), I passed it around to my circle of friends, and we thought it might help if we described how work is for “the rest of us.”

My cohort of friends and I have all been working for 30 to 35 years. Some work for small companies, but many are self-employed; almost all working more than 40 hours per week. Not a single one of us has ever had a summer off. So you should understand how selfish and entitled it sounds to us when someone says, “I enjoyed my summers off for 30 years, but I’ve had to work the last three.”

Do you really consider it a hardship to work the entire year? If one totals winter and summer breaks and the summer off, you actually only work nine months per year. If you want to compare your annual salary to my cohort of workers, increase yours by 33 percent since you don’t work 12 months in a year.

My circle of friends pays an average of $25,000 to $30,000 per year for their health insurance. I can assure you this is much more than 10 percent of our salaries. These are not premium plans; they require co-pays and have deductibles in the thousands. It would be very instructive if the BOE would publish the cost of the typical health plan for the teachers, as well as a description of co-pays and deductibles.

We don’t need to establish the fact that benefits and pensions are financially destroying state, county and local governments. When my friends and I work for clients, they pay us, and that is the end of the business transaction. When we retire we will rely on our own savings. Teachers will continue to be paid through their pensions, although no service is being provided.

Let’s say you work for 30 years and then retire. What will the cost of your pension and premium health insurance plan cost the taxpayers? Let’s say $50,000 per year (again maybe the BOE should publish the actual number). If you collect for 30 years you will be paid $1.5 million, yet not teach a single child in all that time. Does that really seem like a bad deal to teachers?

Finally, it is unseemly to use children as political leverage. The old trope “it’s for the children” is just not true in this instance. Budgeting more money for books or computers helps the children; increasing teachers’ salaries and pensions only benefits teachers.

We realize that the problem is not with any specific teacher. As with most unions, the individual teachers are great people; it is the organization that is the problem. Over the past decades, the people you elected to represent your cohort of workers made deals with politicians that are just not sustainable. 

Teachers represent approximately 5 percent of the workforce in New Jersey. If you want to make honest demands for wages and benefits, please look at what the rest of us receive and I think you will come to the same conclusions as me and my friends: You have a relatively easy job with excellent compensation. So enjoy your summer off, but don’t worry, the rest of us will be working hard to make sure you get your paycheck.

Scott Dennerlein

Barnegat

The writer is a former resident of Stafford Township.

 

Comments (1)
Posted by: Jean D Ragone | May 10, 2018 09:51

I hear what you are saying but PLEASE do t describe a teacher’s job as easy. I might suggest that you shadow a teacher for one week. I taught in the 80’s for 9 years. It was entirely different experience than it is today. Yes, I had some difficult students but, all in all, I felt respected and appreciated for the work I did. In the 90s I left the public schools where I had been teaching business education and joined a “Big 8” accounting firm.  Eventually I began my own consulting firm. In 2005, I went back to teaching.

Teaching today is entirely different. Teachers now find themselves teaching subject matter, manners, respect, life skills, etc. They now parent their students on a daily basis. They use their own income to purchase classroom supplies, books, learning aids, student lunches, as well as, groceries and food for some students. During their summer “time off” they develop curriculum, write grant papers, prepare lesson plans for the coming school year, etc.  They do pay a portion of their ever increasing health insurance premiums.  They pay more than the state required pension contribution.  They pay union dues whether they belong to the union or not. They pay from their own pockets for some students to go in class trips and participate in othe school activities.  I don’t want to forget that for all the things they do, they get cursed by students, yelled at by parents, charged by the state with the responsibility of teaching students values that should be the parents responsibility.  So just as you ask them to put themselves in your shoes, how about you try the same?

Your math also needs some refreshing. If teachers have “off” 3 months per year, that is 25% not 33%. And don’t forget many employees outside the field of education can get up to 6 weeks paid vacation every year after years of service. However, you ignored that in your calculation. Also, teachers do contribute to their pension plans and at a rate higher than mandated by their negotiated agreements with the state.  Few teachers retire at the age of 55 because they cannot afford to do so unless their spouse has a good income. Since teachers contribute to their pension plans and the collected funds of those who die are forfeited back into the plan the tax payer isn’t funding the “$1.5M” pension payments over 30 years.

Both of my children have their Masters in their respective fields.  My daughter works in public education while my son works in a private industry.  My daughter’s annual income including summer employment  and stipends for coaching and other activities is $3000 more than my son’s income and he gets 4 weeks of paid vacation each year that he can schedule for his convenience. My daughter arrives at school at 7:30 am and rarely leaves before 6 pm.  My son works from 8 am until 4 pm and can often work from home They contribute about the same amount for their health insurance premiums and her coverage is only slightly better than his. Although he buys doughnuts for the office regularly, he doesn’t have to buy any work supplies. He rarely pays for his Co-workers lunches. He doesn’t  have a pension plan but his employer makes a generous contribution to his 401k plan and provides a cafeteria plan.  His employer will pay full tuition should he decide to go for a doctorate in a field of study that would complement his work.  My daughter is going to school for additional certifications.  Her contract calls for compensation of $250 per semester. Her cost will be $5,400/semester exclusive of books. However, due to budget restrictions she will receive an education reimbursement of $0.

So please don’t say teachers have “a relatively easy job with excellent compensation.”  Remember “ any time a group of individuals goes no further than their circle of friends to debelow their views, they lose perspective.”

 



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