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January 01
The Guard Dog of Grammar
Not really that fixated on grammar, but it's fun pretending. Find the errors in this sentence: I texed him last night to advice him, "Its time to reign in the cat, its to full of it's self.'

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MARCH 2, 2011 8:24AM

Wisconsin teachers: glimpse your future without unions!

Rate: 61 Flag

kick me im an AZ teacher 

I have two emails to share with you, both written in the middle of this past night.  I was unable to sleep because every time I lie down, I cough.  We teachers are like dogs--devoted even when we're kicked, and crestfallen when we're told, "Bad dog!"  Just call me Fido (Latin for faithful, get it?)

email re absence w pneumonia 

email re student need during my absence 

So what, you may be thinking.  After all, you do this all the time.  This is part of being a teacher--you're a 24-hour advocate for your students because you genuinely CARE about these kids.  Fair enough.

Here's the difference.  Arizona has been a right-to-work state for decades.  Teachers have had no union protections, though there is an AEA which a few of us suckers join, and school districts were allowed to grant some seniority rights.  But what the state legislature gives, the state legislature can unilaterally take away, and that's what happened a year ago.  Because our Republican legislators were tired of the Arizona Educators' Association organizing sit-ins at the state capitol to protest budget cuts to education, they got vindictive and took away all our seniority.  Not only that, but our districts can now cherry-pick the teachers who will receive contract renewals.  Interestingly, a lot of oldsters high on the pay scale found themselves forced to take early retirements.  Too bad about their lack of health insurance until Medicare kicks in!  Fresh-faced newbies now proliferate on my campus.  While I'm inclined to assume they're good teachers (because most teachers are), I do know they are much cheaper.  They are paid less, and their medical bills are minimal.  Our districts can now select what our contract renewal salaries will be, as well, and they can do it on a case-by-case basis.

 I'm not unusual in having a M.Ed. plus 72.  I earn $46,660 a year (frozen for three years).  I pay for the majority of those "terrific" benefits, so my annual take-home is $31,000.  Though our salaries are already low, we've been warned to count on a statewide teacher pay cut of $5,000.  That, John Huppenthal, our new State Supt. of Education, god help us, says excitedly, would balance the education budget!  Well, I'm sole support of a family of five, and this won't do.  I've interviewed at some charters, which are hiring.  Er, they advertise that the salary will be "$31-34,000."  Doesn't look as if I'll get any assistance from that quarter.

What does that mean, on a day-to-day basis?  Well, so far, nothing, and that's exactly what Russell Pearce , John Huppenthal and others have counted on.  We are TEN MONTH CONTRACT EMPLOYEES, nothing more.  Why the hell do I continue to care?  Why don't I restrict my work to my contract day of 7 AM - 3 PM?  Part of the reason is that I'm terrified of losing this job. 

But the real reason is that I'm Fido, faithful to my charges.  I will work from home, I will make sure my special ed kids receive the support they need, I will write IEPs well past 7 or 8 PM at school while my own kids at home miss me.  I'm an Arizona teacher.  Just kick me.

Wisconsin and other states trembling on the brink of losing your union protections: this is your future.    

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...oh, I am...I am...for all you've said and so much more. many thanks xo ...and take care of well as your kids. Unless you preserve the instrument of your health, nothing can flow through it. R
There's one thing Snippy does well, and that's hum--I mean, bump a post. This is important to get noticed, so excuse the self-promotion. I sent a PM to two teachers in Wisconsin who blog here, but that's the extent of the PM'ing I'll do.

Please read, rate and recommend!
Thank you for the good wishes, PM.

Continuing to bump this!
I definitely feel your pain. I also teach, but in a different venue, the community college area. Unfortunately, they play a different kind of game with us, where they don't hire anyone full time, so almost all of the teachers are part timers who get absolutely no benefits. Then they send us all sorts of messages about how they're fighting for us, when they keep taking more and more away from us because they realize we have no way of organizing and no way of protesting. Yet, they always play the "we're advocating on YOUR side" game.

I've come to the conclusion that there's really no respect for teachers of any rank or area.
Duane, I've reached the same conclusion. Why is it that we're seen as suckers deserving no respect, by our lawmakers and by the public at large? I don't get it. If I'd wanted a job where I'm hated, I would have become a lawyer. At least then I'd have a comfortable living.
Don't miss Ben Sen's take on the need for unions:
Labor Unions Waiting for Cinderella
Not much more powerful than hearing it from those on the ground. I will be sharing this.
It is obvious that republicans must had bad, that's not right....they thought they were right all along and didn't listen to what was being taught. The teacher teaches the truth about the Civil War, the kid says Dad tol' me dis is communisms
There are some who would call you an ingrate, since you get all that vacation time. Besides you should be lucky you have a job; there are thousands of unemployed Arizonans better qualified than who would work for thousands less than what your are paid now, and they would be thankful for it. You're just another lazy public servant who likes to whine. Some would say that, but I wouldn't. I admire what you do.
Sophie, share away! Unions protect workers, and if there is no union, there will be no protections. That's been shown time and time again.
Elijah Rising, I swear I have heard that quote. In AZ, though, some teachers are conservatives, Republicans, proud patriots who will believe just about anything. They typically are history teachers. Go figure.
I continue bumping and flogging this--

Sheepdog, thanks. You know what's weird? The charter schools I interviewed at offered 12 MONTH CONTRACTS (no summer off) for far less money than my current public school contract. I already do all my shopping at Goodwill. Banner Health just finished an extensive review of Will's medical bills and recognized that we have no means to pay what we've owed for two years, so forgave 75% of it. God help us, a TEACHER can't afford to live? A teacher can't afford to get a chest x-ray? What's the point of all my education?
You'd make a horrible banker.
Harry, if teachers became financiers, there would finally be an end to credit default swaps. Sure would have preferred to have had that bailout money divided up so we all could have gotten some.
Oh Snippy, I am, even though I live in the Republic of Massachusetts. Whomever gets the Massachusetts teacher Association endorsement is elected, and more than anything else about the teachers unions, I think the deep pocket politicians hate us for that. The next Republican governor we get, our ass is grass.
Oh Cindy, this is one of the saddest indictments of our country's policies toward teachers that I have read. This is the dark side of capitalism and of our country.
Want to hear another horror story? yI taught high school English for a year in 1967 in Marietta GA. I was young and they gave me 1oth, 11th and 12th grades--three class preparations, plus sponsoring the newspaper. I had an MA degree. I earned $3300. Not a typo. Needless to say, like so many others who don't have your dedication, I quit teaching the next year. I could make more as a freelance writer. Hell, I could make more as almost anything.
I have watched (with growing dismay over the years)teachers being "demonized". It more than pisses me off. I never met one teacher who didn't work her/his rear off all the years my children were in school. Yes---there were a couple with teaching "styles" that did not mesh with the kids' learning "styles". We transferred them to other teachers. One child had "special needs". Lots. This was before "mainstreaming" became...well....mainstreamed. We had to fight the admin for EVERY thing. The teachers ALWAYS gave their "all" in supporting Maura. They didn't know what to do with a "retarded kid". They worked hard at figuring her out. My son is "normal". They worked hard at figuring HIM out.
I am furious at what is going on in WI. What the hell is the matter with people! Sorry for the rant on your blog Snip. There is really not much I can do in the way of support. I'd be afraid too. Corgis (and I) raising our paws and fist in solidarity.
I live in a small community without a teachers' union. Some good teachers stay for personal or ideological reasons (as does my family, although we're in different occupations), but I've seen many other good ones leave and be replaced by those who can't find jobs elsewhere. Our on-time graduation rate is 51.9.

Let me see if I got this right. You work to many hours. You don't get paid enough. You pay to much for your benefits. You have to work overtime.

If you are getting screwed so badly and your job sucks so much why are you still there?

I've got it. You looked. Others pay worse, work more, have worse benefits and you don't have anymore protections there than you have now. Since you were looking for a job, I guess that if you found one with better pay, benefits, less hours and protection you would have taken it.

Is that about right?
I'm afraid it may be the future in Tennessee. Tenure and collective bargaining are on the chopping block here, along with more than a dozen other bills designed to cripple the union.
I see the teacher's point of view here and it appalls me that they are treated this way. May I mention that teachers, ALL teachers, both full time and part time, need a union. They also need the support of the parents of their students. These two things are "must have".

The union you'll have to do yourself.

I'll also mention that most teachers are shooting themselves in the foot with regard to the parents. Are none of you teachers smart enough to realize how your assignment of so much homework to students hurts the impression parents have of you? The parents are called upon for help by their kids. The parents have little idea how to manage this - what is taught and how it is taught is far, far different now than it was in their days at school.

Teach at school and quit sending the kids home with homework. Let the parents understand that YOU will teach their kids school work and leave the parents to "teach" life skills. You'll get the support of so many more parents it will amaze you. No parent likes the idea of paying more for teachers at the same time as having to "do the teacher's job", at home.

If you think that you can get fair and equitable treatment from the powers that be without parents on your side, good luck!!

Snippy, you should just bite em!! Those damn Sups and govs and such!! I'll come over and help ya, scratch em, hiss and then bite em too!!!

Stupid bastards!!! GRRRRR!!!

Congrats on the EP!!

Rated, bump, and ~wanders off into the thorn bushes~
My impression is that you usually get what you pay for. Which is another way of saying that schools in Arizona will probably not be very good in the future. Why should well-educated people who can probably make more money and be treated better in pretty much any other job continue to sacrifice their own interests for other people's children?
Catnlion, you ask good questions that deserve a response. I work too much, check. Many weeks I work 80 or more hours. I pay too much for benefits. Yes, I think in Arizona probably every worker pays too much.

Why am I still a teacher? I do find it rewarding, some days. I work with a difficult population, students with IEPs, but I enjoy knowing I excel at what I do.

But you are absolutely right. At my age (56) I would be hard pressed to make a lateral move into another type of job. In the past, I worked in advertising and group life/health insurance underwriting. I spent 11 years as a stay-at-home mom and in that time period, computers became prevalent and I lost my employability; my job skills were just too out-of-date.

I went back to school and earned a post-baccalaureate teacher certification followed by a master's degree because I wanted to teach. Ten years ago, it was reasonable to expect that a teacher could earn enough to pay bills and live modestly. I'm still paying off my student loans, and won't be done with that until beyond retirement.

What exactly is your point? Are you saying that it is NOT reasonable for a teacher to expect to keep up with bills and live modestly? Or are you merely pointing out that many others are in a similar boat?

I know many others struggle. I doubt they have the M.Ed. plus 72 credits. That's equivalent to a Ph.D. But I know my highly qualified status and my educational credentials will leave those determined to dislike the teaching profession unimpressed. Like I said, I didn't bargain on being hated. If I'd been okay with that, I could have gone to law school (wags tail.) But we Fido types are loyal and anxious to please, and are therefore easily taken advantage of by those in power.
This is how I went from being a "fresh faced newbie" with an MA to a "first five years" statistic. I wanted it, LOVED the kids, but couldn't hack the drama without a little extrinsic motivation.

I admire you more than I can possibly say. And I feel compelled to apologize to you. I'm not sure for what--being a citizen in a country that doesn't value its teachers--no, actively denigrates its teachers? In any case, I'm sorry.

P.S. You caught Krugman's NY Times column this week on how GOP cuts will negatively affect children, a la Texas?
I don’t supose you’re in Pima county or should I say Baja state?

Perhaps instead of teaching people we should just build more prisons and put 10-20 percent of the population in jail.
Catnlion illustrates the new American mindset perfectly.

If someone else has things that the union has worked for over time, things like a pension or paid medical benefits, and those things are being taken away, well that's too bad, because some other people don't have those things.

Instead of asking why they don't have those things, and actually doing the hard work of organizing and bargaining, they'd rather nobody had those things at all.

When did Americans become so lazy and petty?
This is the Bubonic Plague of our times...a disease that was also brought to us by fleas and rats.
My wife works in special ed in public school now for 20 years. We buy supplies at times. She is expected to ignore any breaks and often lunch is busy too. I saw a list of the 10 worst paying states for teachers in the USA. Because she is an "assistant" which means primary caregiver for 5 disabled children in a classroom of nearly 30, she does not make a teacher's salary. She's pulling down 2/3 of what I saw was the lowest on the list.
Good Doggy ^R^!

I see two very serious themes here

(1) The charge toward reducing teachers to peonage,

(2) Lack of respect and value assigned to teachers in our culture in the US. That attitude is toxic. It almost guarantees poor results from education.

Alth0ugh these issues are related, I think they are separate issues possibly worth discussing separately.

It's forgotten that teaching is a "calling" for a lot of people. I have the calling, and I am glad I answered the calling by tutoring math as a hobby rather than by becoming a professional teacher.

Forgive me if you've already seen this one, I keep posting this sad but true joke all over comments threads about the Wisconsin union situation. It's funny, but sad.

Just found this joke on a Big Salon comments thread:

A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie."

I appreciate what you do. My son has an IEP, and I rely on his special ed teachers like you for a lot. Although your administration might not thank you, I do. Thank you.
On another note... I was watching a travel show last night, showing a tourist site in Wales where you could visit a non-active Victorian slate mine. The tourguide said:

"The miners worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., half an hour for lunch, six days a week. They had Sundays off. They had three days off per year, Christmas day, (and two others, can't remember which) and those were unpaid."

Is this what we want? Is this what we're heading for again? People too poor to eat, too poor to revolt, living in virtual slavery?

Unions are not an anachronism.
First, I applaud all those who teach our children.

However, I can't endorse the main message here that union-less workers are doomed.

For each horror story on one side, there is another side with outstanding results.

Examples include:
- the highest-profit airline with the most-satisfied employees in the industry is without a union for flight attendants
- most of the technology companies on the left-coast where employees become millionaires every other minute don't have unions -- and these people need to contend with offshore programmers
- nearly all small, professional firms are union-less with extremely-high employee satisfaction levels
- etc. etc. etc.

Also, I think you should be forthcoming in stating that your advanced degree/credit hours were not required for continuation in your job -- they were for your benefit and personal growth (congrats, btw). If the advanced schooling WAS required for your continued employment there would be no way an inexperienced, green college graduate could push you out of your position, correct?

Finally, I think you should pro-rate your salary in terms of a person who works 12 months out of the year to make an apples-to-apples comparison (most teachers I know work summer jobs to bump-up their income significantly).

Again, nothing but respect from me for most teachers. Our public school system in NJ is one of the best in the nation. Is it because the teachers are in a union? I don't think so.
I'm a firm believer in investing in good teachers so that we get a thoughtful adult populace. Period.
I was a nurse in "right-to-work" state Arizona in the 1990s. As a nurse in Arizona I had no rights whatsoever. My corrupt, money-grubbing, profits-over-people employers (at least two of which were committing blatant fraud, one of them Medicare fraud) had all of the power, and the state's board of nursing primarily exists for the wealthcare industry to persecute nurses who dare to get out of line and fight for what's right and fight against what's wrong.

In 1998 I left Arizona and nursing, and to both I say GOOD RIDDANCE!

I now am a unionized state government employee in California. Being a state government employee is NOT the luxurious lifestyle that it is mythologized to be, but as a unionized state employee I have RIGHTS and good benefits -- which I never had in Arizona.

It DOES matter where you live. If you're a teacher (or a nurse or anyone else...) in a red state, get your ass to a unionized blue state. You'll be happy that you did!
I think Joisey respectfully raises some thoughtful arguments, and I want to jump in to offer an opinion on one of them:

People like to talk about the 10 months versus 12 months pay, which is fair. But I have never cared about seeing it that way. Rather than looking at what an employee has to do, I've always cared more about what that employee is worth. I am a free marketeer at heart. I think that educators are worth a lot more than lawyers or politicians, just to name two, because of their value to the infrastructure of a wise and skilled populace. We as a society tend not to complain about how much lawyers make an hour (perhaps because it's not coming out of our tax dollars), but it's relevant as to which talented students go into which fields. I want the cream of the crop to enter the field of education. I think teachers are more valuable than a lot of other professions, so I think they should be paid a lot more.
This is horrible, but, unfortunately, here is what you can expect from the National Education Association:
I understand your dilemma -- I'm married to a nurse. And to put your situation in proper perspective, here's my comment on another dog's blog:

As for Mr Sheen, I hope he can reclaim his life, tho he gives every indication he is not on the path to recovery. But this sordid tale isn't just about Sheen, it's about the fact that this man of limited talents and limited accomplishments was overpaid to the tune of two million an episode as the star of a lowest common denominator smarmy TV show.

Still, the only reason he was paid that much is because the hacks producing this tripe were paid even more handsomely -- and because millions of people tuned in to watch that tripe.

Ah, the wonders of the Free-Market -- will they never cease? Meanwhile in the "worthless" public sector, govt workers, teachers, firemen and policemen are being asked to take pay cuts or lose their jobs altogether.

As Pogo famously said, we have met the enemy and they are us.
Commenters who have a personal ax to grind should refrain from spamming their own blog posts on someone else's blog.
Catnlion's comment misses a larger point. The conversation is bigger than Fido's career and what jobs she could find elsewhere. The real conversation should be about how much our teachers should be worth to us as a society.

If we have large numbers of teachers leaving the profession because they don't make enough to live on and can find more highly paid work elsewhere, that reduces the quality of the workforce in place teaching our children. Soon, only those unable to do anything else would remain. I am familiar with the old saying "those who can't do teach" and I think it's a pile of crap. But if we don't make some changes to teacher pay and to the value we place on education societally, that dumb saying may become a grim self-fullfilled prophecy.
For those who provide statistics about non-union companies with satisfied workers and great benefits: why do you imagine those companies are doing that? Because history is replete with examples of corporations that behaved with integrity toward their employees before unions?

Those unions that still exist provide a safety net for all of us in reminding corporations about the power of collective bargaining.
Thanks for sharing the reality of right-to-work as it pertains to teachers. Arizona, leading the way in the new Race to the Bottom initiative.
"I am not a teacher but an awakener." Robert Frost

"Education is the transmission of civilization." Will Durant

"One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen." Philip Wylie

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Henry Brooks Adams.

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." Anonymous

"Our children are our future." Just about everyone.

When you are feeling downtrodden and under-appreciated (and also, when you can't make your mortgage payment) these inspirational quotes should get you out of the doldrums lickety split. But whatever you do, don't read the last one:

"Modern cynics and skeptics... see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those whom they entrust the care of their plumbing." John F. Kennedy
I shared a letter from Snippy at my last union meeting. See, when we talk about our fears openly, we get a lot of "You don't really think it's going to be that bad, do you?" or "They have to know this would kill education in our state, and I don't think they'll go that far." After reading the letter, it was silent. Because we finally had verified what we all feared...that we're not just being paranoid.
Great post! Thanks for sharing your experience.
I am not having a good day...can't write at all b/c my emotions are spilling over...I can't thank-you enough for this extremely personal and inside look at our scary future...your voice on this issue is more important than any b/c you live it every damn day. This makes me so angry. .. so angry. An uneducated country leaves us vulnerable to our very core...that's apparently what the sick-minded among us crave.
GDoggie, you are not alone.
Click on




What bullshit.
Why is it ALWAYS ALWAYS the repunklicans who are against REAL Americans?
Virginia's in the same boat, Cindy. We've never been anything but a right-to-get-screwed state, so far as I know. And our teachers are treated like bad dogs, too, of course. This has prompted me to post a video I just received from a friend with examples of what this country's contempt for public education is producing in the way of students. Good luck in Arizona.
Snippy, every time some one tells me that getting rid of the teacher unions will improve education, I'm going to send them a link to this post. Excellent!
I'm a public employee and I really do enjoy being labeled as lazy and stupid. We also get the myth that we are all going to retire rich. I really don't understand these people who work against their own best interests. They have this ridiculous notion that corporations will always have their interests at heart and will make sure they are paid a decent wage with benefits. Hah!
I appreciate the reads and the rates. I appreciate the alternative views expressed without anger or sarcasm. I will try to address you individually, but right now I need to go get that chest x-ray.

Unions may seem dispensable to you if you're young and healthy. I'm older, and my husband has cancer. Yes, I am expensive to my district. But do we really want a society that kicks older, loyal workers in the teeth? Remember, someday you'll be old and you may not be healthy. I'm happy to earn a modest salary in return for a safety net. When the safety net is yanked, I have a justifiable grievance, because I kept my part of the bargain!

Do not trust those in power. Do not willingly give up your right to negotiation or you will be at their mercy.
Well-written, well-stated and powerful. A true cautionary tale. I could write reams more, but you know that I agree with you and am angry that dedicated professionals such as yourself have to endure this public lynching for political gain.
Very well written on a very topical subject. With the governors conspiracy to wipe out the unions, I'm afraid ever state might be like yours. Teachers should earn as much or more than doctors in my humble opinion!
Many thanks for your dedication to your profession. I fear for the future of our country as cuts to the education budget will inevitably drive you and other good teachers away from the profession that is so essential to a s trong, independent nation. hang in there!!
This makes me sick. Not that it helps you at all. Are private schools any better?
It's right up there with the health care issues in my book. One of the two most important public policy issues that we face in this country.

Teachers, like nurses, have not always had union organization. Having worked non-union all of my career in nursing, I can tell you that when i finally had a chance to work as an administrator (aka management in a unionized environment), I was brutalized by the treatment I received from the rank and file.

My fellow RNs, degreed professionals, carried their red union contract booklet in their back uniform pockets every single day, and whipped them out to let me know they were going to a. --, b. --, c. --, whenever they wanted b/c it was in the contract. Never mind that it left the unit short staffed, patient care suffered, and mistakes occurred due to lack of the thing you mentioned - devotion.

I'm of two minds on the union thing. Clearly. There is a reason to have it, and it can be severely abused.

Sounds like you may need to move.

As an aside to you and everyone else out there with the Cold From Hell, after 6 weeks I gave in and bought Mucinex DS. I finally got my first good night of sleep on Monday. It really did suppress the coughing and that icky draining that has been keeping me up nights for weeks. I hate to say it, b/c I despise the TV commercial. maybe I'll write to tell them with a good product you have to be able to do better.

Same with the teachers in AZ. Damn. What a mess.
You continue to fight for the same reason that I continue to fight... because the children *deserve* better than what they are getting.
How do you rate other countries in similar positions?

"Press send FRed(tm) this is interesting and affects more than just the USA, but what the hell it's an international subject."
Wonderful piece. My mom, like you and like Jon Stewart's mom, was a star teacher and worked her butt off for very little money for 40 years...
Well, there's one solution to all of this. Ask yourselves one question. How did the first unions start? It's a model for the future.

Fair enough.

Both my mother and step-mother were teachers with advanced degrees and national awards. The boat you are in is not new and now it's standing room only. You are right there are lots of others in the same boat.

The best part about your reply, is you do it because you want to. You could be a factory worker and put the same screw in all day long and if you pissed and moaned about it nobody would care. Teaching is one of those jobs that you have to do because you like to do it above all else.
You are a good dog, I mean, uh... teacher, Snippy!

This makes me ill, though not as ill as you I am sure.
I wanted to be sure to tell Froggy - my husband and I LOVED your joke! No, I hadn't read it before! Will has posted it on his Facebook page. He says whenever he expresses a political opinion, he gets dead silence from his relatives. I think he likes yanking their chains.
The reason we are suckers is because we love educating, we love the kids, and we are not in it for the money or the notoriety. So we will tolerate crap. At least, enough of us will.

Good dog, Snippy.
I quit teaching when I could not get a permanent job and my mother was ill. I needed money. I went into tech and made three times as much. I would have stuck it out if my mother hadn't been ill, but there's not long-term illness safety net for anyone in this country. Maybe we should do like the Middle East and start demanding democracy.
Checking in again. I'm sick, or I would have been more active in comments. I am very grateful for those who read and considered my thoughts. I do agree that there is no perfect organization, and that includes unions. But the teachers' unions are HELPING far more good teachers than they are HURTING good teachers.

Without oversight, any business (nonprofit or otherwise) will slash expenses in pursuit of a better bottom line. But the eventual product in this case is informed young adults. When school districts are encouraged to get rid of older, more expensive teachers, in favor of young ones with no medical issues, they are guilty of shortsightedness. It will not take long for the message to be heard that to continue in teaching it helps to be young and healthy, or if you're not, to be willing to settle for a salary that will never make ends meet.

I never would have thought the US would come to this level of disdain for public employees. DO NOT ALLOW YOUR NEGOTIATING RIGHTS TO BE STRIPPED FROM YOU! Don't trust the ruling elite; they DO NOT have your best interests at heart!
From the early 80s, I have been involved with school districts. errrrrrrrrr. . . I have been continuously involved with several Arizona school districts since the early 80s. . . ahhhhhhhh. . . uhmmmmm. . . . .

While I have volunteered to tutor, and to “teach”, on several occasions, the greater part of my educational resume has to do with sitting on Governing Boards and school district financial committees. It also has to do with ridding our public educational system of two superintendents, recalling three Governing Board Members, and placing one public school district into State receivership.

There was never an intention to cause trouble, at least initially. Further, many more constructive goals were achieved than were destructive goals contemplated.

However, when troubled school districts failed to make the proper choices, then it was our job to present them with the more severe alternatives. When they weren’t smart enough to determine on whom they should concentrate, us or the classrooms/teachers/children, then we removed their ability to make any choices.

We did this all within the laws on the books at the time. We did this by organizing, yes; . . . but . . . we did not do this with unions, contracts, or a formalized collective bargaining power.

This developed into an avocation. With one exception, this developed only in the school districts in which our family lived, and in which our grandchildren lived.

So, I encourage you to think outside the whiney box of “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, we don’t have a strong union. . . . .” Trust me, there’s plenty that you and your parents can do.

Snippy, you are, nevertheless, our hero, especially since you help take care of Arizona children. Our hope is that you are one of those teachers who provide many of their students the inspiration of a lifetime.

Our hope is that you are also now well; and enjoying life in the trenches now dedicated to the battle of AIMS .

We still work on your behalf, especially when it comes to pay and benefits. However, I have another thought in this issue, given the current set of Arizona school finance laws and practices.

More later.

Don't be too tough on my grammar or syntax. My parakeet deleted the Word program from my computer.
I am a retired educator after twenty years of teaching in the public schools. I have to wonder why the unions have concentrated on teacher pay and benefits instead of the travesty that is No Child Left Behind. Race to the Top might even be worse. What about the students?
Several people have made the point, "Life is hard for me, too! Why should it be any better for you?" I have difficulty understanding this mindset. To me, it makes far more sense (and is fairer and kinder) to unite against the real wrongdoers. If you don't know who they are, start reading Matt Taibbi, who has reported extensively on the massive criminal fraud perpetrated on the American people by Wall Street financiers, whose crimes are receiving a complete pass from our complicit government.

If bankers hadn't been gambling with our retirement funds and our mortgages for decades, none of us would be in the impossible financial circumstances we are in now.
Rated and faved. I don't understand the mindset of "I had to take a pay cut, why shouldn't they?" That's beside the point. The union agreed to the concessions. The governor wasn't interested in that. What he wants is to bust the union. Why do some people have unions and others don't? I don't care. THESE workers organized and they should have a right to be unionized and have a voice in their contract. If you don't have a union, perhaps you should think about starting one. Honestly, the Teahadists will come out in defense of whatever Rush and the Koch brothers will force feed down their throats. Hopefully, this GOP overreach will come back and bite them.
Snip, I am very afraid...this is the wrong direction! I feel so sorry for kids growing up in this...brava to you for continuing to teach honorably while being treated so dishonorably...xox
Kyle, I'd like to address two of the issues you bring up.

First is seniority. In the anecdote you relate, you have the underlying assumption that the person you know who was laid off was performing better than more senior employees. First of all, you don 't know this, but your bias is in favor of that person. I can understand that, but it's not based on facts.

Seniority is a somewhat "artificial" concept, but I believe that, in most cases, it is a better measure (or certainly at least equal to) than "job performance". Evaluations are almost never objective, but seniority is what it is. It is based on something measurable. You seem to be leaning towards that old prejudice that, the longer a person has been on the job, the lazier he or she gets. I dispute that. I am about midway on the seniority list in my organization, and I feel that I have a lot more to offer because of my understanding of the organization and the amount of time I have spent here. I would certainly think it was wrong if I were to be laid off instead of a less senior employee.

Are more senior employees always better than those less senior? Of course not. But, generally speaking, more often than not, those with more seniority are more dedicated, more efficient, and more knowledgeable.

The second issue you raise is about rich "union bosses". I work for the teachers' union here in Tennessee, and I can tell you that no one is getting rich doing this job. At the local level, a great deal of the work that gets done is on a strictly volunteer basis. Some of the bigger locals have the budget to pay a full-time president. Those are rare, and the pay is modest. Those of us who staff the union (and are unionized ourselves) make very middle-class wages. I suppose some of the people at the national level get big salaries. Nowhere near a CEO, I can assure you.

As for not being able to sustain the salaries and benefits of public sector employees, I think your anxiety and anger are misplaced. The public-sector unions did not cause the deficit problem. That was caused by people who don't give a rat's ass about you or me or this country. They are criminals, and they are walking free. While teachers and government workers making a modest living are being demonized.
"The way things are right now I would think anyone would just be glad to have a job."

That's the way they want us to feel. They just want us to roll over and die.

"How can unions who are paid by tax dollars use those dollars to support political candidates?"

Union dues are not given to candidates. PAC money is contributed voluntarily and kept in a separate fund. Or are you saying that anyone who is a public employee shouldn't be able to give any money to political candidates?

As for who unions support with their PAC money, well, why in the world would a union support a candidate who is opposed to its very existence and the well-being of the employees that union represents? This is what I don't understand. Republicans here in TN are whining that the TEA doesn't support them. Why the hell should we? Now that they're in the majority, they're doing everything in their power to strip teachers of their right to bargain. (And that's what at stake here, Kyle. Not the "right" to a pension, but the right to bargain that pension. Big difference.)
"Why is it that we're seen as suckers deserving no respect, by our lawmakers and by the public at large?"

Oh, sweetie - don't lump me in with those wretched (mostly) lawmakers. I'm pro union, pro teacher, and pro you.

Unfortunately, I guess, I am anti-Arizona, but that one's been coming a long time. It's too bad - I'll miss spring training. Forever.
I kiss the ground you walk on.
How happy I was to see this on the front cover still...OS - you make the lonely Wisconsinites feel encouraged today...we're off to Mad Town this weekend to raise some hell...First stop - Governor Walker's address in Eau Claire -

Thanks again for all you are doing to help all of us...

Since you seem to know, please tell me what is a "right" and how do I determine what is and what isn't a "right". No examples please, just the rules for making the determination.

Thank you
Stellaa, I think it was even worse than gambling. It was a deliberate and sustained fraud. It lasted long enough for them to suck out every last dollar they could, and then it all collapsed.

If y'all haven't read Matt Taibbi's "Griftopia" yet, I highly recommend it. (But don't read it if you like to be able to sleep at night, because you might not be able to after you're done.)
I'm chagrined and aghast at the eagerness of so many in this country to assist in the razing of their own middle class. Kyle, I can't take much satisfaction in the fact that I "have a job," when I DON'T. I have a 10-month contract, nothing more. It doesn't matter that I've built a solid reputation for myself over 10 years. It doesn't matter that I've come in, for years, nearly every weekend for 8-10 hours to prepare lessons, grade, write IEPs and telephone my families. I've got a plaque from 2005 announcing that I am a district special educator of the year. It's all worthless. My husband cost the district more than $80,000 in medical bills last year. There is nothing to stop my district from simply not renewing my contract, and ever since they were given carte blanche by the state a year ago, I've witnessed how petty and cruel they can be. Our principal disliked a teacher who dressed rather sloppily for work, so caught her on a little-known technicality (apparently, teachers are not allowed to drive students anywhere, regardless of whether they have parent consent/signature) and she was gone overnight. This woman was vital to our special education department, which is still reeling a year later. It is almost impossible to find teachers with dual special ed/science certifications. We now have non-qualified teachers teaching resource biology and resource ecology this year, and it's the kids who suffer. So do I feel vulnerable as an expensive employee? You'd better believe I do. I worry about it constantly!

Anti-union people seem to think that unions are suppressing endless goodwill from school districts and state boards of education that would otherwise be extended toward those few teachers who really deserve it. Why, if it weren't for the unions, teachers could be properly appreciated and paid accordingly! Oh, the naivete. I've busted my butt for years, and seen countless hours of my own unpaid personal time disappear into a black hole. There is no "paying your dues" anymore. You can never rest on your laurels, or be sure that your job is safe. And I've NEVER--never once!--had any indication that my devotion to excellence would be rewarded in any other way than a slap on the back, "Attaboy, sucker!" Yet I still do it. That's the Fido in me.

Arizona is a right-to-work state. What has stood in anyone's way, here, to properly reward good teachers? Nothing that I can see! But has it happened? Of course not! Those with the money will always tell the lies and trump up the excuses for paying as little as possible. They perseverate on standardized test results, which means, predictably, that lower levels of Bloom's will be promoted, and critical thinking skills will receive lip service only while otherwise being ignored. Lainey mentioned a wise populace, in her comment above. This prioritizing of standardized tests is the very antithesis of wisdom, critical thinking, or the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. But even worse is the talk about tying teacher pay to their students' standardized test scores. What utter folly! I KNOW that I have drug dealers and gang members in my classes. I KNOW that I've got video game addicts and potheads. I KNOW that hell will freeze over before many of my students feel motivated to turn homework in consistently and on time. Yet their abysmal work ethic is MY fault? How completely unfair.

As for the new teachers and no one ever taking their part, ideally no one should have to pit a seasoned pro against a fresh beginner with lots of energy. There should be, and actually is, room for both! But instead, my state is full of high schools bulging with thousands of kids. Class sizes have swollen to 38-42 students, even in core areas where no child is supposed to be left behind. This is sheer insanity. We need classes of 30 students tops, and then the schools would be hiring those newbies just to keep pace with attrition, and everyone--students and teachers--would benefit.

I am shocked that anyone would question health care as a right for all. Really. Shocked. "Give 'em health care, and what will they want next? Food for their children?!" Do you really want US standard of living to degrade even further, to be on a par with third world countries? Maybe my husband needs to just suck it up, die in the street and stop being such a burden on the taxpayer. Heartless.

And then there's the old saw, "If you don't like it, just leave!" Yeah. Right. Have you researched this at all? Do you realize how the vast majority of the world is stuck behind the borders of the country they happened to be born into? Nearly all country borders are now closed. You must marry to immigrate, or really have a skill in demand. I have a house that I paid $122,000 for in 2001. It is now worth $64,000. I have no money in the bank, N-A-D-A. It went, long ago, to medical bills, what little there was. Will and I have considered moving to New Zealand, where his medical care would be paid by the government, but New Zealanders don't want an American English teacher--that's an oxymoron to them! And special education law and practice are entirely different there. And--final nail in that coffin for brilliant ideas--my kids would not be welcome.

Once again, I say, as others have above, gullible Americans are being brainwashed into vilifying their fellow victims while allowing the criminals to run free. We're told that it's those damn greedy teachers who actually want to earn enough to pay their bills who are responsible for the mess the rest of the country is in! It's the fat-cat policemen and corrections officers and firefighters! It's those low-downs who pushed through an increase in the minimum wage! Pay no attention to the Goldman Sachs execs who revolve through government positions followed by terms on boards of directors of various financial institutes followed by another stint as US Secretary of the Treasury or even Vice President of the United States. That club is untouchable, they're above the law, they're off-limits to the criticism of middle-class scum like me, and they are free to wreck retirement funds and lives the world over. They do so, and will continue to do so, with impunity. And as they do, they KNOW they can count on the unthinking middle class to blame each other.

Enough. There is no getting through to some people. I've got better things to do with my time, like tackle all the work I brought home since I don't have time to actually use a sick day to be sick. I have enjoyed joking with you in the past, Kyle, about nonpolitical issues, but your political views show a frightening unconcern for the sufferings of others.
As a teacher, I think this is a great blog post. Thanks flor thiks.

catnliar, notice that no-one even cares to answer your stupid questions.

Snippy, I think I love you for your last comment to Kyle D. The world needs more people like you, not less. The idea that we should all accept less so that 2% of the population can rape and pillage and loot at will takes us back to feudal times. Why so many people fall for the big lie mystifies me, but the fact is, they are generally people who are not capable of critical thought. They have to accept the lie; otherwise their lives would be even more intolerable than they already are.
"Thanks flor thiks"

That's because your answer will be as bad as your typing.

Do you care to answer or are you just going to try to draw attention to yourself? I didn't think so.
I don't have fat fingers, like fat harold - I was in a a rush to go shopping with my wife.

How many wives have you had, so far, catnliar?

you can use your fingers and toes to count, and still you'll come up with 2+2 = 3.
A few of the comments tend to shed more heat than light. Let's be in the light. Oh dear, I feel a great DC Talk song coming on...

I wanna be in the light
As you are in the light
I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh Lord, be my light
And be my salvation
All I want is to be in the light...

Goodness me, sometimes my old religious beliefs resurface. Like hope, they seem to spring eternal.
Cindy, good luck and I hope you feel better. I never taught once I saw the salary levels. It's a shame and a scar in our country. What matters here? I wonder why politicians can raise all kinds of money but school boards can't?
Snippy, here is the promised addendum to my comment above.

Almost every one of the public school districts (both charter and non-charter) in Arizona is a multi-million dollar enterprise. Yet, you would be surprised at how many public school superintendents, business managers, and administrators have never taken an accounting course, business management course, school finance course, or economics course. The result is that few superintendents, business managers, and administrators, especially in small districts, are as sophisticated as they should be when it comes to handling funds for public education. Further, the result is a significant loss of expenditure efficiency in school district spending and a significant loss in revenue efficiency in school district finance.

Consequently, before huge amounts of tax dollars are thrown at Arizona public education to remedy the problems you see from the classroom, one should be clear about how it is to be used. Certainly, one good use would be to direct such money ONLY to raise teachers salaries, not to hire more teachers, not to raise administrative pay, not to underwrite more benefits.

We have many good teachers in Arizona. I am sure that you are one of them. However, we need better teachers in Arizona -- ones that can only be attracted with better compensation packages.

Let me illustrate this with a few points from the Arizona Auditor General’s Office.

• Arizona non-charter public schools spend approximately $9,700 per student per academic year, while Arizona charter public schools only spend approximately $7,800. Yet, by several measures, 14 of the 15 academically best performing school districts in Arizona during FY10 were charter schools.

• In 1945, Arizona spent approximately $1,200 per student per academic year, adjusted for inflation to the value of the 2009 dollar. Arizona now spends eight times that amount; but the academic performance of students in the Arizona public school system over a broad span of metrics had dropped significantly during that time.

• Florida consistently spends almost exactly what Arizona does per student per academic year. However, since adopting reforms focused on quality instruction in 1998, even Florida’s financially poorest children regularly outscore the average Arizona student.

From my point of view, there are two large components of the problem implicit in the foregoing:

First, there are endemic problems with the acquisition and disposition of public funds by school districts for education in Arizona. Such problems have much to do with the manner in which school finance laws dictate revenue is provided to, and expenditures made by, public school districts. Solving these inefficiencies may imply that not much additional treasure is required to improve the educational processes and to raise teacher compensation in Arizona.

Second, the certification process for Arizona teachers to retain their ability to teach in the non-charter public schools has a continuing education requirement. This requirement allows, and perhaps encourages, applicants to indulge, and perhaps engorge, in the pedagogy of education, and not in the material to be taught.

Further, most new teachers are currently trained in this manner. They learn the strategies of instruction; they learn the psychology of children and adolescents; but few enter the classroom with a mastery of the material that extends beyond what they learned during their own K-12 education.

The fear will always be that unions will focus on teacher certification, not student results. Unions are, like humans, concerned about their own preservation. The AEA has not, and will not, organize in Arizona's charter schools. They have captured about half the teachers in Arizona's non-charter schools. Yet, it is clear that charter schools can produce a better product, with less money per student, and sometimes more money for their teachers, and no unions.

Charter schools in Arizona are more free to hire less-certified teachers who have a greater mastery of the subject they are employed to teach. The result is that even I can teach, or encourage students to teach themselves and each other, junior high school mathematics better than professional teachers. Let me offer my blog series "Love Conquers All - Part 2" series as proof of this.

On that sad note, I will end this comment.

Good luck, Snippy. . . .
america is flirting with disaster. right now, meanspiritedness and ignorance rule. nation wide idiocy soon to follow.
Appropos of a comment or two waaayyy back on the list, I would like to state a few things for the record.

I am a public school teacher. I pay into my retirement. I pay a significant amount into my health care. Every district has has its own union, and negotiates its own contract. Generalizations about our benefits cannot be made.

I love my work. that is why I do it. But I am grateful for union protection because so much that goes on in education is subjective. I'd hate to lose my job becasue the principal didn't like the way I dressed.

And if I wanted to go find another teaching job, I ask: What other teaching jobs?

Snippy, you rock. Did you know that today is National Grammar Day or some such thing?
This conversation has evolved a bit into a different subject area, and that's about whether posters at OS listen to conservative voices, or are too quick to paint them as wrong or evil.

Kyle's contribution to the discussion

Try to provide light, not just heat.
I came back to read everyone's take on this C, and it was a good across the board response - thanks for a great conversational and thought provoking post.

I smiled when I saw the ref to New Zealand. My daughter is there working on residency. She makes $65K and can't afford a rental apartment on her own. I could go on, but the facts are that the national health care and education programs make life very, very expensive there.

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. You would never be allowed into the country to work, so no regrets. Age and pre-existing health problems would preclude you from ever enjoying the perks of NZ at this late date.

"L" isn't 30 yet and her residency app is in the medical reviewer's office due to a childhood hx of 'seasonal allergies' listed on her application. Her 38 yo partner's cholesterol level is on the high end of 'normal' - but still within the given guidelines. He's on the chopping block too. He can't enter without her, and vice versa - partnerships are all for one and one for all when it comes to residency in NZ.

She's an under-30 demographic, applying for residency in a country that will provide unlimited health care for the rest of her life, and for her children if she has any - along with an excellent education. She's in a highly valued technical field (the boif as well) and if the government determines they will cost less than $25K in health benefits per year - they will have put an instant egg into their new NZ nest. After 2 years, they are free to move about the world, but can always go 'home' to NZ.

I wish I'd been smart. As you said, I AM very afraid. And I wish them luck, b/c I would love to have someplace to visit in my old age. I just won't be able to get sick there.
Oh my, it just burns me up those politicians (with their salaries and their benefits -- many of them lifelong -- their pension and their freestyle work schedules) sitting in JUDGEMENT over teachers. I hope the Wisconsin group and those in other states hang in there, and keep fighting. I'm not even a teacher, but I AM afraid. (I hope you feel better soon. I hope your work situation gets better too.)