Back to School Series – Labor Day

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlight various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5)

It’s that time of year when school starts and the very next week Labor Day is here. It seems to make sense that Back to School week and Labor Day are so close together. It provides the opportunity to discuss those that labor in our public schools. Although, the truth is, there has been a lot of talk about people who work in our public schools.

Most of the discussion is about the pay raise teachers supposedly received. The truth is that many teachers are simply getting their longevity pay that they have already earned. New teachers will see some benefit of the use of the longevity pay but the teachers who have actually put in years will not be getting what they deserve.

New teachers may have higher starting salaries but it comes at a cost. They will not have career status protection which provides teachers with due process rights. Losing due process rights is a heavy price to pay. These teachers will also be working on one year contracts. These one year contracts assure, some say — including people at NCAE, that teachers are now being treated as temporary workers.

It is not only the teachers that will suffer with the one year contracts. School administrators like superintendents and principals will have to deal with the logistical nightmare of having to manage a slew of one year contracts.

Of course, the job of teaching has not become any easier since there will be fewer teacher assistants. Although it was promised that teacher assistants would not be cut in the budget, the truth is that they have.

Perhaps, the most galling thing that has happened to school personnel is that they will receive a $500 raise for doing the same job as another state worker who will receive a $1,000 raise. Both raises are probably not enough but a maintenance person in a school should get the same raise as a maintenance person in another state building.

Make no mistake, every adult in a school matters to the children. Students need stability. Seeing a maintenance person as you travel through your grade level is important. It is important to the maintenance workers that the children in the school do well.

It is definitely true that children need the widest network of love, caring and support. It goes without saying that teachers and teacher assistants are essential members of that network. They do their job well no matter how little they are paid.

As noted earlier in another blog post, social workers would be beneficial to keeping kids from dropping out of school. We will hear that we cannot afford more school personnel. The truth is if we really cared about our kids, we would raise revenue to ensure that our education system works.

That is really the point of Labor Day. It is about respecting our workers. It is not about playing shell games with money and giving the illusion of pay increases. It is imperative that we invest in our school personnel with adequate pay and working conditions that are not chaotic. When we respect our school laborers, we show that we want our children to succeed. Ensuring that our school administrators, teachers, teacher assistants, support personnel have all of the tools they need to educate our children is our job. And, during Labor Day week, we know that it is a job worth doing.

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