Saturday, May 15, 2010

Letters to the Editor - issue one

Just ranting. This might be my response if I were to write to the Gazette. (see original letter below) I won't because I don't live anywhere near there, but ...

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but letters like this one quoted below fill me with a sense of wonder and maybe a little despair -- wonder that the writer has so little knowledge of how the world works (or simply refuses to look beyond a talkinghead-type sound bite) and despair that we have a media with its echo chamber forums determined to perpetuate the false notions dreamed up in a fit of rage.

First, I wish that other states would include income sensitivity in their property-tax calculations to account for those who can't afford to pay. Here in the Socialist State of Vermont, property taxes are capped at 4.5% of household income. Its a fair compromise for a state that has little industry and most of its wealth tied up in property and it makes a lot of these complaints moot.

The wonder? The writer is essentially complaining that teachers (and their unions) are greedy bastards, "teaching students to pursue their own advantage regardless of the cost to their neighbor ... [snip] ... teachers’ unions are unwilling to forgo salary increases."

Click on the title for more

Why, exactly, should teachers give up a salary increase or accept a pay cut? I'm real sorry about the families who lost their source of income but I have a family, too. We both work and we make a good living. Why should I have to give back some of my wages just because someone else lost their job?

If one group of people loses a job, how does that mean that a second unrelated group must also lose their jobs or necessarily accept pay cuts? Can I simply look around and find those people who got a pay increase this year or who got jobs this year and demand a teacher increase based on them instead? Teacher pay and waitress pay should not be tied together. How about teacher pay and Bank Executives pay?

Why do people think like this? I think it's the disparity in public emotion between the loss and the gain of a job. People lash out without really thinking.

Unemployment is a big deal because of its affect on people, all at once. It's a particularly difficult and embarrassing time. Jobless people are in a definite crunch and attract understandable sympathy. I get that. (Some unemployed are more of a jerk about it - demanding a job as a right instead of looking for one or demanding that the new job pay as much as the old one.) What I don't get is why I should necessarily be the one who has to take a paycut to "pay" for it.

The other side of unemployment is much quieter. Getting a job is quiet celebration. All those folks get jobs at different times and they usually just go about their new job quietly with little fanfare, grateful that they can now be productive and fiercely protective of their job and paycheck.

Whence the despair? For me, it comes from considering that the media and the people of the community seem to be in an escalating competition to be more radical and unreasonable. The echo chamber of "teachers suck" letters gets a bit much. Forget the bad spelling and grammar, ignore the atrocious mathematical errors or the forgotten lessons of history. Forget that this is a fallacy of relevance (argumentum ad misericordiam).

Teachers are held responsible for all kinds of things - even those completely out of their control. Somehow, forcing a pay cut on them will cure those ills and inspire those teachers to do even more.

The same people who would (or have already)
  1. do most anything to get a good-paying job at the plywood factory, or dealership
  2. wonder why on Earth they should take a pay cut or voluntarily give up their job because unemployment is high in the community,
  3. fight fiercely to keep that job, join a union and expect that union to negotiate on their behalf
  4. look askance at an idea to make their own pay vary by as much as 25% and base that variation not on the quality of the work they do but on the quality of the materials they use or on the ability of workers they didn't choose and can't fire.
  5. desire seniority rules to protect their own job and preventing the company from firing someone because a raw newbie is cheaper.
  6. expect a raise every year regardless of any added value to the company
... would then ask teachers to accept layoffs and pay cuts because of unemployment in the community, complain that teachers have seniority rules and "tenure", complain about the teachers' union working for the benefit of its members and feel it appropriate to put their wage-scale decisions into the hands of diffident teenagers. And justify their complaint because teachers are "teaching the wrong lesson" to the children.

But, I teach logic. What do I know?

Greedy teachers setting an unhealthy example for their students

A Schenectady (NY) Daily Gazette Letter to the Editor
May 14, 2010

The most disturbing thing about our school budget process is that our educators, by their actions, are teaching students to pursue their own advantage regardless of the cost to their neighbor.

While many of us totter on the precipice of financial ruin, teachers’ unions are unwilling to forgo salary increases. School districts and most state legislators have turned a deaf ear to Gov. Paterson’s pleas for caps on school taxes despite New York state’s desperate financial situation, shrinking tax base and unstable economy.

Amidst all this avarice, I have seen no concern for the plight of the jobless and the vast majority whose incomes are shrinking. For example, at the Broadalbin-Perth school district budget hearing, one woman shared her heartbreaking story: She has been laid off from her job and, with only a trickle of income remaining, can barely make ends meet. The school board expressed no concern that she, and many others, will likely lose their homes if property taxes continue to increase.

Although I find the educator’s modeling of the “me, me” attitude disturbing, I find what the schools are teaching me more alarming. I have been a highly optimistic person. My zest for life has enabled me to prevail in my battle against two life-threatening diseases. I now find myself increasingly pessimistic. The determined gleam in my eyes is now only a flicker. If the Broadalbin-Perth school district’s budget is approved, my taxes, which have increased 400 percent in the past 10 years, will go up still another 14 percent. Even the contingency budget has a confounding tax increase of 9 percent.

If the citizens vote down the school budget, what will the students be told? In Broadalbin-Perth, I am afraid that they will hear that voters are selfishly denying them their sports programs. However, I hope that enlightened teachers will tell them the truth: Our taxes are too high; New Yorkers are leaving the state in record numbers and many who are jobless or retired cannot afford the 9 percent increase and may be forced to sell their homes.

Sherrie Giles

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