Wisconsin teachers: glimpse your future without unions!
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?)
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.