Don’t chastise the teachers

George A. Young is President of the Chico Unified Teachers Association

A recent editorial in the Chico News & Review called for the employees of the Chico Unified School District to take a pay cut in order to balance the district’s budget ["Who’s going to pay?” Jan. 27]. I don’t see how anyone can see this as anything but a special tax on just educators. While educators did not cause the state’s budget woes, those same educators are more than willing to sacrifice a portion of their income in the form of a tax if everyone else in the state and/or community were willing to do the same.

Imagine how well off our district might be if everyone, not just district employees, were to give 1 percent of their income to sustain schools. It would actually take only a fraction of a percent.

California is 43rd among the 50 states in what we spend per child for education. We are 49th in class size. Yet we have the highest standards of any state for student achievement. It’s impossible to provide the best education with some of the worst funding.

Simply asking educators to bear this burden is ludicrous. Is 1 percent really enough? Will it take another 1 percent next year? What about 3 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent? When does it end?

Furthermore, your editorial characterized teachers as some sort of fat cats by suggesting that the median income for a teacher is $55,000 and that they have “Cadillac” medical benefits and that they could, therefore, afford a cut. It takes 15 years of experience and many years of education for a teacher to approach that level.

The only reason that the average is currently running high is that we now have a large population of very experienced teachers. That trend will reverse. Many of our young teachers make considerably less than the median income, yet your proposal would take money from them as well.

In regards to our so-called “Cadillac” medical plan, we pay a considerable amount of money out of pocket each month for our benefits, which also include co-pays and deductibles. I tire of people who believe that teachers shouldn’t have quality health care because other people don’t have it.

Your newspaper seems willing to perpetuate the myth that teachers work only from 8 until 3 and have long summers off. There is a reason that nearly 50 percent of people who enter the education field quit within five years. It is one of the most demanding, draining jobs that anyone will ever love to do. It’s time we acknowledge the wonderful job that educators really do, and it’s time to work together to find solutions to bring California back as a leader in the field.