They Don’t Pay You Enough….

Mike Lawson • Perspective • April 6, 2018

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As I write this, thousands of teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky have marched on their state capitals demanding an increase in wages and school funding.

I read about teachers carrying signs saying how they had to raise over $2500 a year for supplies because the districts won’t buy them. I read about teachers with class sizes from 40 to 50 students. I talk to band, orchestra, and other music educators who tell me of aging instruments in disrepair and no money to fix them, or see bands marching in t-shirts and jeans because their moth-eaten band uniforms were last updated in the 1980s. I hear band directors who have returned to teach at the high school where they once marched, tell me that the uniforms that their students wear, and some of the sheet music they read from, were there when they were in school.

I’ve read how Oklahoma has approved the first pay raise in 10 years for its teachers. I’ve read about teachers working that long doing one of the most important jobs in the country, and after a decade, not even earning $40k a year.

And another month into the school year, another school shooting. Another tragic loss of lives. Children dead. Talking heads spewing. Millions of students and adults marching for change. Nothing getting done by politicians frightened of a lobbyist group.

One thing suggested was arming teachers. Though I am a lifelong gun owner, raised around them in the deep south by a former police officer and Vietnam veteran, I am far from the obsessive gun-owner-type. My guns stay locked safely away in a safe. Only I have the key. And only I know where it is hidden. I cringe when I hear people suggest that school teachers should all be packing heat, trained to do what even police agencies have great difficulty doing- that is, firing a weapon to stop a dangerous situation. I think of everything that can go wrong against the one thing that could go right- stopping a shooter. On SBO’s website, we asked, “Are you willing to carry a gun as a teacher?” A solid majority, over 78 percent said no. While this isn’t a scientific poll, it does seem to somewhat mirror the industry-wide educator response.

I think back to my own angst-filled, hormone-surging, moody school days, and how much of a handful myself and my friends could be 35 years ago. I think about how little teachers get paid to deal with that. Then I add to all of this the changing times, the level of anger and misinformation and outright lies that our amazing Internet has helped churn up, and all of the related emotions. I think about how much easier it now is to humiliate a fellow student through online bullying on social media, where going home for a bullied student no longer provides the respite it once did. I think about misinformed low-information parents who use terms like “snowflakes” and far, far worse to describe their fellow citizens, people whose views they don’t agree with, and how that example for their children helps dehumanize them and their fellow classmates helping to empower a bully.

Teachers all over are striking or preparing to strike due to poor working conditions, safety issues, lack of funding, little or no pay increases, duct-taped textbooks that are decades old, and huge class sizes. I could go on and on. And now, the same politicians who have valued the needs of our educational institutions so little, cutting funding, stifling teacher pay, and choking resources, want you to carry guns and be trained as first responders. I don’t have all the answers to the gun issue, or the funding issue, or anything, really. Maybe I’m just venting with you. I know this much. Clearly, they don’t pay you enough.

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