I have a little story to tell that stresses the importance of the need for parents to support, and monitor their elected school officials – and for teachers to work with their union representative. A strong collaboration will improve the health of the schools, and benefit the children and the community.
“Mary” applied for a job as a teacher in for Madision District Schools. She could not take the job because they offered her a salary that was “less than a beginning teacher’s salary” though she had 14 years of experience, certification in 2 critical-teacher-shortage areas, AND a Master’s Degree in Education. She was so excited about the job as an Algebra teacher at the high school, but had to decline it after she found out the salary! Why did she even interview for the job one may ask? She did not need to know the salary step before the interview because the website had a salary schedule 2 years old, and she was willing to take even that pay shown at that time. She ass-u-me ‘d (assumed) the pay offered would be equal to, or better than this.
Salary steps (which are the pay levels paid for how many years of experience a teacher has) are made up every year. Public districts traditionally put the first 2-3 years of experience on step one, then every year after is equal to a one-step increase (Higher steps mean higher pay). She asked for the new salary schedule. It was not available. After pressing, it was emailed to her 5 days after her approval for the position. That’s when she was shocked to see that her 14 years of experience would only pay her less than what the average beginning teacher makes in the 3 neighboring counties. She thought should surely be some mistake, right? Could she negotiate? “No”, she was told. “Talk to the union”.
No one at the school district that afternoon knew how to contact them. “Go to the school and ask”, she was told. The school had no phone number for the “union”, but gave her a website. The website had not been updated for 2 years, and the main union official for the union was speaking in Alabama! So, with this dead-end, she went in person to thank the principal for the opportunity, and declined the job.
The is no recourse because since the board members are “elected positions”, the public has to vote them out if they don’t like how they run things. But parents will not know this story. It is not a crime to be negligent, in offering her that salary. All I can say is 5 school board members and one union rep control all that money. Parents are unaware.
This is one example of why the quality of public education is so poor, or function continually under stress. The community, and students missed out on a good teacher, and there is no recourse. Support, but also hold accountable our elected officials! And don’t take this story as message that most teachers are underpaid. They are not. This is an exception for how Madison County treats their teachers. Most teachers make about $40,000 for a 10 month school year will great benefits.