SN&R Letters 2012-02-23

Teachers are not royalty

Re “Cuts, crowded classrooms & consultants” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Frontlines, February 9):

Let’s look at some facts about teacher salaries, shall we? (All data on teacher salaries is taken from Ed-Data, which gives free information about teacher salaries and benefits for every school district in the state. The most recent data available on the site is from 2009-2010 and interestingly excludes information about administrative salaries.)

The range of teacher salaries in the Sacramento City Unified School District starts at $40,184 ($218 a day; $31 an hour) for an entry-level teacher ($8,000 more than I made last year in private industry with a master’s degree). The work year for a teacher is 184 work days (180 teaching days). The work day for a teacher is a short 7 hours. Please don’t waste my time telling me that teachers work longer hours than their contract requires, blah, blah, blah, they are supposed to be professionals. We all take work home.

The highest teacher salary possible in the school district is $86,673. Average salary for a teacher in the district is $63,345. Add to this 8.25 percent ($5,225 for the average teacher) for the district contribution to the State Teacher’s Retirement System and the $9,949 contributions for benefits that the public pays on their behalf. This would add up to annual compensation of $78,518 ($426 a day; $60.96 an hour).

A teacher earning the top salary would earn these amounts: $86,673 + $7,150 +$9,949 = $103,772 in total compensation ($563 a day; $80.42an hour). Eye-opening data from the U.S. Census Bureau: The average per capita income of the residents in Sacramento is $25,427. The median income level in the city of Sacramento—that’s all wage earners in a household—is $50,267. So the average teacher in Sacramento is earning $37,918 (more than 149 percent) more than the average resident who pays their salaries. The average individual teacher is making $13,708 (greater than 26 percent) more than the average city of Sacramento household.

And that is just the higher amount on salaries; few private employees have the kind of retirement and fringe contributions that teachers enjoy.

The article spends a lot of time focusing on consulting contracts and this could be justified in some cases but no facts are given except that 77 percent of the $39 million is from restricted funds. An example could be money for free lunches that can’t be spend on teacher salaries (thank goodness, or it would be, I am quite certain). [Cosmo] Garvin reports the wonderful news that board member Diana Rodriguez managed to win support on the board for “an ad hoc committee to hold hearings and study consultant contracts.” First of all, the board approved all of those contracts. Did Rodriguez miss that? She voted on them. Is she unsure of her decision or is she really just looking for a public buffer from the teacher union? The elephant at the contract-negotiation table is the lack of the district’s ability to rein in the average teacher salary, not on the 15 percent of the budget they have some discretion over. Real savings must include cutting salaries, cutting work years, cutting benefits and reining in the cost of fringe benefits.

Teachers do important work, but so does my bus driver. I see no justifiable reason that an average teacher makes a salary so far above the average citizen who foots the bill. They’re not royalty, and they’re not heroes.

Derek Link

Lose a lane for pedestrians

Re “Drivers, you’re responsible” by Gerard Falla (SN&R Guest Comment, February 2):

I heartily agree with Mr. Falla on the point that drivers in Sacramento should take a much more cautious approach toward pedestrians and bicyclists. The prevailing notion currently seems to be that right of way is a function of mass times speed, whereby a speeding half-ton pickup should be regarded as one rung below an emergency vehicle.

This principle is reinforced for me every day when attempting to cross I and J streets at 20th Street in Midtown. Standing at the corner of Lush Salon, one can hear the roar of engines revving as drivers come around the corner from 21st Street a block away and enter the start of the three-lane portion of I Street heading downtown. Shifting from two lanes to three, the drivers are far too concerned with jockeying for position and gaining speed to spare attention or concern for anyone bravely attempting to cross the road on foot.

Occasionally a friendly driver will stop and allow you to cross, but this is actually the most dangerous moment for a pedestrian. It is a common occurrence for other drivers to swerve around a car stopped at a crosswalk in Midtown. I have become accustomed to stopping in front of each stopped car and double checking the next lane to be certain the next driver will stop, a result of a few too many close calls over the years.

Granted, I regularly walk, ride a bicycle and drive a vehicle. I’m as culpable as any Sacramento driver of having proceeded in the midst of a pack of cars down J Street without stopping for pedestrians attempting to cross. I’m trying to be better about taking it a bit slower and keeping an eye out for other users of the road.

Others may disagree, but I have found it much easier to see pedestrians and bicyclists on 19th and 21st streets where the streets have been converted to two-lane single direction with bicycle lanes. It also has reduced both the concern over unexpectedly running into an opening car door when driving, and the concern of getting run over trying to get out of a car. As a driver, bicyclist and pedestrian I would be glad to see I and J streets converted all the way to City Hall, even with the resulting impact on traffic flow.

For now, let’s all begin by agreeing to slow down a notch and look out for our fellow Sacramentans as we share this public resource.

Ed Chandler

Nothing magic about it

Re “Oh, ho, ho, it’s magic …” (SN&R Letters, February 2):

Richard Copp’s argument about marijuana on the highway misses the point. No one has said that marijuana drivers are completely accident-free. What the records show is that cannabis smokers have the lowest accident rate of any group, including teetotalers. When the records are examined it is clear that completely sober drivers have more disastrous collisions on the highway than pot smokers.

A recent study by D. Mark Anderson demonstrates that states with legalized medical marijuana have seen fatal car accident rates drop by 9 percent. This decline was linked directly to a reduction in the practice of drunk driving. Persons living in states that had legalized medical marijuana were less likely to drive under the influence of alcohol, and more likely to use marijuana instead. Legal marijuana lowers highway accident rates.

Ralph Givens
via email