According to a 2007 study by the Manhattan Institute analyzing teacher pay, teachers are “making a killing.”
Perhaps what they meant to say was, “Teachers are willing to die.”
Jon Stewart ironically questioned, “When will America’s teachers follow the lead of Wall Street and start making some sacrifices for the children” on The Daily Show in March of 2007 - a question that rings a sour note in the wake of the December tragedy in Connecticut.
Sarcasm aside, his remark brings to light a painful question that no one wants to face these days. Teachers have long been the targets of blame for student performance - academic, behavioral, societal - all the while taking on the responsibilities of parents, mentors, coaches, counselors, even security officers. Yet their pay remains on par with the “para-professional,” rather than commensurate with their peers with post-bachelors degrees, specialized training, and the care and welfare of our nation's next generation. No, on the contrary, due to that break in their work year called summer vacation and other breaks that coincide with major holidays, teachers are seen as glorified babysitters.
Tracy Byrnes, Fox News Business Commentator, called Wall Street bankers, “These poor people” on television in March of 2009, defending their rights to be paid contractual bonuses after government bailout because “that money is spent long before the check comes in the mail.” Her sympathy does not transfer to the education sector, apparently. In another Fox TV broadcast, Byrnes referred to the teachers involved in the the February 2011 protests in Wisconsin over Governor Walker’s proposed changes to union’s bargaining power by claiming, “You knew this was happening, they all knew this was going to come to a head and I think it shows a poor example to the children that these people are out there fighting for things that they quite frankly don’t deserve. They too need to make concessions.”
Today, in Kern County, California, one teacher made a serious concession - he talked down a gunman and stopped him from shooting the next target in his classroom. That teacher took a graze wound in the process, but prevented further tragedy at the school.
Patti Nielsen and William Sanders are testaments to teachers who did what they had to do for their students at Columbine High; one survived and the other died for their dedication to their jobs.
And just four weeks ago in Connecticut, six teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary made the ultimate sacrifice for their students.
So when the nation’s pundits talk about what is wrong with our schools, or how much money is being wasted on teacher pay, perhaps the conversation should include a consideration for the new norm in America’s classrooms.
That new norm seems to include life-threatening situations and a proposal to bear arms for self-defense and the defense of children in their care.
Perhaps it’s time to stop nickel-and-diming teachers and award them hazard pay.