The Most Basic Requirements

In a letter to the editor of the Sakonnet Times (not online), Tiverton High School physics and chemistry teacher Richard Bernardo offers general encouragement to everybody involved in the contract disputes to “roll[] up [their] sleeves and [get] the job done.” In light of news released since Mr. Bernardo penned his letter, this part sticks out:

The teachers are desperate; they are desperate because, in reality, they are in the fifth year of a three-year contract. Lying underneath the fact is the reality that they knew a long time ago that they had chosen a profession such that they would be underpaid and under-appreciated. However, the current development was not expected; this is their livelihood, their bread-and-butter, on the table; in spite of everything, they fear that they have failed at this most basic of life’s requirements.

Having looked at the step levels of Tiverton teachers (which increases they’ve continued to receive, along with annual raises, except for this year… so far), I’d say Mr. Bernardo’s being a bit melodramatic. Those teachers, however, who are affected by the news that I mentioned above, would be justified in feeling desperate:

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the School Committee agreed to send nonrenewal notices to 34 teachers for the next school year. State law requires teachers be notified before March 1 if there is a chance they might be laid off the following school year.
The notices will go to 15 teachers at the middle school, 12 at the high school, and 7 at elementary schools, Fiore said.

Squirm as the union might, the money is simply not there, and the union method requires an all-or-nothing approach that is leaving 34 teachers with nothing (at least when it comes to a contract for next year). Making matters worse, Tiverton’s teachers won’t be alone in the East Bay answering education want ads.
I’m truly sorry to hear about lost jobs, not the least because, as a parent, I’d prefer for the services that the district offers to be increasing. That might save me the time (at least) of looking into private schools. But as long as teachers continue to tie their fortunes to an organization that handles them as factory workers and must justify its existence — with emphasis on those with longevity — solutions for accommodating everybody will be illusory.

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Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Rhode Island teachers underpaid? That’s a laugh! When RI teachers lead the nation by earning 47% more than the average RI salaried worker (and they don’t even have to work the whole year to do it!) you really have to feel sorry for the average salaried RI worker, now don’t you? Don’t worry Mr. Bernardo, very few tears will be shed for the likes of you by your fellow Rhode Islanders.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
13 years ago

I swear that public school teachers live in their own little world.
Within ten years of starting they are at “top step” – reaping $60-80k a year for what is in reality a part-time job.
On top of that they get gold-plated benefits and a fat pension, for life (so they can spend every dime they make instead of having to put money aside for retirement).
All that, and they don’t even face pressure to do a good job – between tenure and seniority all they have to do is coast, and they can’t be fired, or even pressured to improve.
The fact that a teacher would even think of writing a letter like that and having it published in a newspaper shows how out of touch those people are.
They’ve been coddled so long they don’t know what real work is. “Gee, we haven’t had a raise for a couple of years, boo hoo hoo!”
Screw them and the NEA horse’s ass (Pat Crowley) that they rode in on.
If they don’t like it, and are so abused, they can always apply for jobs in the private sector … of course, that’ll cut into their beach time in the summer.

Mach
Mach
13 years ago

Ragin-
I’m guessing you don’t know any teachers personally, do you?
And where’d you get the 80k/yr figure?
And everybody, at least everybody with a brain, saves money for retirement even if they have a pension coming because sometimes things “happen” to pensions. When was the last time you saw a teacher wining and dining without a financial concern in the world? And who are these teachers, because I’ve never seen them before…
The problem with this debate is that neither side is entirely right – the job isn’t the cakewalk that some make it out to be but it isn’t an 80-hour week like some people work either. The job doesn’t pay an astronomical salary, but it isn’t a bad salary either – it is certainly a decent salary. The benefits are slowly being eroded. The job satisfaction is personal; the community respect for this position, despite its vital importance to the future of this nation, is sorely lacking. We demand good teachers but treat almost all of them like they’re dirt, regardless of their individual abilities and character – make sense to you?

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Mach,
$60-80k is exactly correct for a step-10 teacher. The $80k becomes possible when one adds in all of the extras, salary plus advanced-degree bonuses plus longevity plus any extra activities (mentoring, coaching, etc.). I don’t know in what town you live, but you should check out the teachers’ contract there; sounds like you’d be surprised.

Ken
Ken
13 years ago

The State of Hawaii is the 43 largest state covering 10,032 square miles across over 130 island points and is over 1,522 miles long with only “ONE” school system.
State of Hawaii looses approximately 1,500 school teachers every five years mostly due to high cost of living. The US Census Bureau reports Hawaiian (4-person median family income) is at approximately $73,477.00 per 3 year average 2004-2007.
Under the current 2007-2008 year Hawaii NEA 2 year contract starting pay for new teachers is $43,157. For teachers with about 15 years of experience, a master’s degree and some additional credit hours, annual pay will be $66,359 by the end of the current contract. For the most experienced teachers with more than “33 years” of experience, pay will be $79,170.
It is my understanding, teachers only receive pay for days worked so the misnomer that teachers get the summers off with pay is wrong because teacher yearly salary is compressed into the 180 day state and school department mandated working year. Teachers making $80K as a yearly salary is possible but only at the very top step with additional advanced degrees and is far and few between.
It is excellent to see Rhode Island (smallest state in USA ¾ size of Island of Oahu) catching up to State of Hawaii basic cost of living and taxes.
May the Governor, General Assembly politicians, special interest groups and locals keep comparing and competing State of Rhode Island against larger more wealthy states; please expand your gambling and Rhode Island will surpass Hawaii in cost of living and taxes.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
13 years ago

–And where’d you get the 80k/yr figure? Mr. Katz ably responded, so I’ll leave it at that. –And everybody, at least everybody with a brain, saves money for retirement even if they have a pension coming because sometimes things “happen” to pensions. When was the last time you saw a teacher wining and dining without a financial concern in the world? And who are these teachers, because I’ve never seen them before… How about the two teachers from Hartford who have their vacation home (near Newport) up the street from me? Being able to collect a pension based on 70-80% of your highest consecutive three years’ earnings, with no minimum retirement age (as it is for all RI teachers hired before 1995), with a 3% increase (compounding) in that pension each year, for life, surely negates the imperative to “save for retirement” that the rest of us feel (i.e., those of us in the real world). –The problem with this debate is that neither side is entirely right – the job isn’t the cakewalk that some make it out to be but it isn’t an 80-hour week like some people work either. The job doesn’t pay an astronomical salary, but it isn’t a bad salary either – it is certainly a decent salary. The benefits are slowly being eroded. The job satisfaction is personal; the community respect for this position, despite its vital importance to the future of this nation, is sorely lacking. We demand good teachers but treat almost all of them like they’re dirt, regardless of their individual abilities and character – make sense to you? Add the value of the pension and retiree health care into the salary, since most people won’t get either, and the actual working time – summers off; extraordinarily high number of paid… Read more »

Ken
Ken
13 years ago

Ragin’ Rhode Islander, I am not a teacher but know a lot of teachers and have spent time in the classroom as a volunteer K-12 plus adult evening education. You have made some accusations about teachers and I ask could you please back up your statements by directing all reading this Blog to printed documents and facts which can stand up in a court of law. Instead of lumping all teachers together into one very broad financial bucket, maybe you should ask your Newport, RI teacher neighbors from Hartford, CT. how they managed their investments to acquire the RI properties. That way you may get another insight how to best manage money. The properties you mention just might be (1-2 week a year timeshare). As far as a RI teacher retiring and receiving 70-80% of their top three years’ salary, you forgot to mention that the teacher must work at least 30 years in the retirement system to gain those figures while contributing each year 9.5% of their pre-tax salary. The 3% increase Cost of living adjustment you talk about is once every 3 years in January (every third year January after the individual retirement date) according to RI retirement information The Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island has been earmarked (nation-wide identified; singled out, publicly recognized) as one of the “highest required employee contribution retirement systems in the nation generating the least return for the individual invested funds” across all 50 US states. SOURCE: State of Indiana Legislative Services Agency, Office of Fiscal and Management Analysis 2006: http://www.in.gov/legislative/publications/PensionStudyReport.pdf Add to the above the State of RI continued requiring individuals to contribute 100% of their funds while the State of RI dropped their contributions to 56% causing underfunding of the total state-wide retirement system. All vested retirement members can sue… Read more »

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Ken,
My child’s second grade teacher makes $79,000 per year for her 186 days. After eliminating recess, lunch, and itinerant scheduling, she is in the classroom, at most, 4 hours per day, with instruction time most likely closer to 3. That averages out to be $106 per day for the time she is teaching, not including benefits. Why don’t you show some documentation that indicates that this is not way out of bounds in any sector for pay that is not merit based. For that matter I bet you can’t even come up with another salaried “profession” that works 186 days, for four hours a day!

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
13 years ago

–I am not a teacher but know a lot of teachers and have spent time in the classroom as a volunteer K-12 plus adult evening education. I applaud you volunteerism. Other than that, what does knowing teachers have to do with anything? –You have made some accusations about teachers and I ask could you please back up your statements by directing all reading this Blog to printed documents and facts which can stand up in a court of law. What “accusations” are you referring to? In any case, the teachers’ contracts speak for themselves – both as to their a la carte pay resulting in high salaries and actual classroom time. The lack of rigor of “colleges of education” is well documented, as is the poor performance of U.S. public education (and even worse performance of RI public education). –Instead of lumping all teachers together into one very broad financial bucket, maybe you should ask your Newport, RI teacher neighbors from Hartford, CT. how they managed their investments to acquire the RI properties. That way you may get another insight how to best manage money. The properties you mention just might be (1-2 week a year timeshare). It is a single family house. Two stories. The husband brags about taking sick time to come up and work on it during the school year. They spend the entire summer there. –As far as a RI teacher retiring and receiving 70-80% of their top three years’ salary, you forgot to mention that the teacher must work at least 30 years in the retirement system to gain those figures while contributing each year 9.5% of their pre-tax salary. Yeah, so they pay in thirty years and can start receiving a pension in their early fifties. As someone forced to pay a 12% “self… Read more »

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
13 years ago

Ken, Ken, Ken…
Just who do you think you are fooling. For one, everybody knows plenty of teachers and everybody knows how “hard” they work. Furthermore, if they want to be treated like professionals, they should stop acting like factory piece workers. They all operate under contracts modeled after the UAW. And what kind of work do they produce? Crappy, overpriced products. Exactly what the NEA/AFT produces. Who can be surprised?
And, 9.5% after 30 years gets them a pension that is so rich versus their contributions it is ridiculous. Why don’t you go do the math and tell me I’m wrong.
It sounds to me like you, your wife, your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your son or your daughter OR a combination of a few of the above is a teacher.

Monique
Editor
13 years ago

That’s $424 per day; $106 per hour.
One proposed amendment to your calculation, Frank. It would probably be more accurate to use the contractual work day (six hours?) as the divider. In that case:
$424 / 6 = $70/hour.
As you noted, excluding bennies and retirement.
And some teachers work longer than six hours per day. (… at least, when the union doesn’t catch them.)

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Monique,
I won’t disagree with you on the 6 or 6.5 hour day. My oldest child is a second grader, I am just still dealing with the shock of realizing how little time the primary classroom teacher spends with these kids. It’s not like it was when I was in school.

Mach
Mach
13 years ago

Justin- POSSIBLE I get, was just curious what was meant by the 80k/yr figure because that is higher than any salary I’ve seen even for top step. Ragin- 2 teachers from Hartford? Wasn’t aware that we had anything to do with the salaries of CT teachers. Might I ask what their spouses do for a living? As for savings, if they want to count on the pension then fine. I personally wouldn’t and I wouldn’t think anybody with a brain would either. It is not outside the realm of possibility for a pension to vanish. Happens in private sector all the time, guess we should just do the same for the teachers too then. As for teacher compensation rates, yeah if you compare to various other jobs that are nothing like teaching. Some teachers shirk and don’t teach – it happens. Others spend numerous hours per day OUTSIDE class time working on school projects, planning, grading, and the like. Hence why both sides are wrong – neither description of teachers as all saints or all sinners is even remotely accurate. And regarding the vacation, hours, etc. – they get sick time because kids carry germs like everyone else and sickness spreads. Teachers get sick a lot, no joke, and they bring it home to their families to boot just like your kids bring it home to you. Difference is you only get exposed to your kid and his/her friends, the teacher is exposed to ALL the kids for hours a day. And vacation – do you have to go to the mill when it is closed? No. So what do you want teachers to do during the summer (besides teach like some do in summer school?) since there are no kids? Oh, a part-time job to fill the summer hours… Read more »

rhody
rhody
13 years ago

If I were graduating from college right now, why the bleep should I want to become a teacher?
The $60-80K (whatever) will have to wait at least 10 years. Until then, you’re the subject of abuse from parents, politicians, radio talk show callers, bloggers, and people who love describing themselves as taxpayers.
Down the line, after all these years of bashing teachers, you’ll be dealing with real teacher problems – shortages, incompetence, whatever. All it does is make teaching a less atractive profession, and the only way you’ll get reasonably competent teachers is by boosting salaries even further. Kids may be find ways to make $60-80K in professions that aren’t constantly under attack.
It’s called reaping what you sow. Prepare to deal with it.

rhody
rhody
13 years ago

If I were graduating from college right now, why the bleep should I want to become a teacher?
The $60-80K (whatever) will have to wait at least 10 years. Until then, you’re the subject of abuse from parents, politicians, radio talk show callers, bloggers, and people who love describing themselves as taxpayers.
Down the line, after all these years of bashing teachers, you’ll be dealing with real teacher problems – shortages, incompetence, whatever. All it does is make teaching a less atractive profession, and the only way you’ll get reasonably competent teachers is by boosting salaries even further. Kids may be finding ways to make $60-80K in professions that aren’t constantly under attack.
It’s called reaping what you sow. Prepare to deal with it.

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Rhody
We’ve got more than reasonably competent teachers who make a lot less than public school teachers right now, their salaries are more or less market based, and they work without the abuse directed at public shool union/teachers.
They are private school teachers.

Mach
Mach
13 years ago

Frank-
I went to private school, the teachers were not spectacular. Both teachers I found to be horrible in my LIFETIME were from my six years in private school. And they don’t need any certification as far as I know. Perhaps they can even teach with a GED, in which case the low salary wouldn’t be a problem cause they’d have no student loans to worry about and they’re alread statistically likely to make much less than a college-educated person anyway so I guess they might be happy with a 22k/yr salary for teaching.
The better private school teachers were “retired” public school teachers who didn’t want to stop teaching but didn’t want to deal with the crap from public schools, because you’re right that private school teachers don’t get the same abuse.
And my private education cost about the same (though a little less, God bless the Church) as a public school education. Some of the private school, market-based “tuitions” are over 20k/yr for high school – try pitching that to the taxpayers.

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Mach,
There are poor teachers everywhere, these days most of them are certainly in the public school system where there is no accountability, no merit , and plenty of tenure.
There seems to be much more accountability in private schools than there was. Their teachers do need to be certified if the school wants to belong to the various private school associations which all or nearly all are. There was a time when Catholic schools didn’t even pay the nuns who were teaching anything extra for teaching, though most of them did have teaching degrees.
In RI, K thru 8 private school costs between $3000 and $6000 per year, much less than the $10-11,000 that public school costs. It is high school where there is a cost jump in the private schools. Though there are still schools such as Hendricken, LaSalle, Prout, and some others that are still at or slightly below the cost of public education.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
13 years ago

–2 teachers from Hartford? Wasn’t aware that we had anything to do with the salaries of CT teachers. Might I ask what their spouses do for a living? They are married – both public school teachers. –As for savings, if they want to count on the pension then fine. I personally wouldn’t and I wouldn’t think anybody with a brain would either. It is not outside the realm of possibility for a pension to vanish. Happens in private sector all the time, guess we should just do the same for the teachers too then. Public sector employees “vest” in their pensions, and so have a legal right to the “vested” portion of the benefit (which eventually is 100% vested). Compare with Social Security, in which there is no vesting – Congress can reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits on a whim. A municipal bankruptcy might wipe out a public sector pension – and thanks to our Democrat politicians we just may find out here in RI. As for teachers, unlike other municipal employees they are in the state system, and it’s not clear if a state can declare bankruptcy and wipe out its pension obligation. But since we’re $5 billion in the hole and climbing, hope springs eternal – the deer in the headlights look on Bob Walsh’s and Pat Crowley’s faces would be priceless! –As for teacher compensation rates, yeah if you compare to various other jobs that are nothing like teaching. Some teachers shirk and don’t teach – it happens. Others spend numerous hours per day OUTSIDE class time working on school projects, planning, grading, and the like. Hence why both sides are wrong – neither description of teachers as all saints or all sinners is even remotely accurate. But their union insists that we judge them as… Read more »

Finally
Finally
13 years ago

Let’s make a difference! We really can this time. There are excellent pending bills that really need our support. They are basically chipping away at the teachers union stranglehold on every town in RI. The main point of the bills is that they will end the stupid seniority system and replace it with a system of making personnel decisions based on unbiased evaluations. So basically, if you’re a crummy teacher, no more free ride. This is incredible stuff, especially when you consider it was the DEMOCRATS that introduced it. They’re the ones that caused this union problem and at last, some renegades are trying to fix it. They deserve a big hand, and our support. Representative Doug Gablinske was especially forward-thinking. The bills are H 7208, H 7209 and H 7210. There are even others that will fine striking teachers and even the union! This is really big news. A link to one of the bills is below. Below that are the email addresses to the members of the House, Education, & Welfare committee, which is where the bills are right now. Please write to these people immediately and tell them you support these bills. Usually the GOP would try this stuff, but it would get shot down by the dems. When the dems are the ones starting it, we have to absolutely rally around it.
http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText08/HouseText08/H7208.pdf
rep-baldellihunt@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-coaty@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-diaz@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-fellela@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-ferri@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-flaherty@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-handy@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-loughlin@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-mcnamara@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-serpa@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-silva@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-story@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-wasylyk@rilin.state.ri.us, rep-winfield@rilin.state.ri.us

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