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Letters to the Editor 8/23

August 22, 2000

Letters to the Editor 8/23



Teacher unions are not effective



To the editor:

Teacher shortages and teacher pay. Two main issues that the new elected School Board members must address. The question is, "What is the best way to attract and retain the best teachers?" One answer to this problem that I have come across is market incentives, that only a free market can provide.

If market forces were unleashed in government education and teachers were treated like professionals, many would be paid over $100,000 a year - without an increase in taxes. The so-called teacher shortage would evaporate.

How would this happen? If the government schools spend about 46 cents of every educational dollar on teachers, teachers pay would rise to about 41 percent annually. Teachers salaries account for less than 33 cents for every educational dollar. This would boost the average teacher salary to about $54,241 a year. The average teacher salary today is about $38,509.

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The question is "Why hasn't this happened?" Lets take a look at the teachers unions, NEA and AFT. These two are the largest teachers unions in the United States. They have become an effective political force, but they have failed, by and large, to bring home the bacon for their members.

Union contracts dictate that teachers be paid based on years of service and level of education. Salaries for new teachers have declined by nearly 4 percent from 1987 to 1994, according to the Department of Education. Then, taking inflation into account, government school spending has more than quadrupled - up 312 percent since 1959. Yet, overall teacher pay has increased only 43 percent during the same time. Thus, teachers' raises have been less than one-seventh of the "raise" that the education system has received from taxpayers.

Where does the money go? Largely to administration, overhead, bureaucracy and other members.

According to the Organization of Economics Cooperation and Development, the United States spends more on such items than most of the other developed countries. In 1995, 15 percent of all education spending in Japan was devoted to "non-teaching personals." In the United States, that figure was 24.6 percent. These figures on pay and overhead reflect what the teacher unions don't care about.

Government school spending has gone up - along with dropout rates, violence, and parental frustration with teachers, and elected School Board members and school superintendent. The NEA and AFT are more effective at promoting and expanding school bureaucracy than they are about teachers and education.

Teachers pay union dues, and what for? Does it have anything to do with negotiating contracts or other services? The bulk of the union dues that teachers pay to the unions goes to a top-half staff of lobbyists, and political operatives. Both unions employ more than 3,000 officials at an average gross annual compensation of more than $100,000. Most of this operation consist of political arm-twisters in the federal and state capitals.

Unleashing competitive forces, through opportunity scholarships or vouchers, would serve as a catalyst for schools to streamline their administrative expenses, as they focused their efforts on teaching students and rewarding teachers.

John W. Cohen

Washington County

School Board Candidate

Hagerstown




Lovely chapel



To the editor:

I recently had the unfortunate experience of planning a funeral for my mother. Living out of town, I had to decide how to feed everyone after the service. I learned of a new facility at Rest Haven Chapel that was free of charge, and a lovely place for everyone to gather after the funeral.

We provided the food and the facility was equipped with a refrigerator and a coffee maker. Everyone on staff there went out of their way to accommodate us. The view of the cemetery is lovely, and our guests could choose to eat inside or outside. We felt others needed to know that such a facility exists. The chapel is also very lovely.

Suzan Lucas

Garner, N.C.

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