It’s hard to believe that a Charlotte-Mecklenburg schoolteacher’s email to state legislators titled “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher.” didn’t elicit more responses like the one she got from Sen. David Curtis.
It may have, but Curtis’s is the only one that has gone public since he hit “Reply all” and sent it out to everyone the teacher copied on the message. The exchange then went online and was detailed in a story in our Wednesday edition.
Sarah Wiles, a science teacher with six years of experience, according to radio station WUNC, in her email made the typical claims we’ve heard about public education for a long time, but especially since Republicans gained a supermajority in Raleigh — teachers are underpaid and unappreciated, education gets “lip service” from conservative politicians who then do the unthinkable and slash spending.
What it really boils down to is money. Wiles describes a teacher’s salary as “disrespectful.” Teachers — at least this teacher — want more money. Don’t we all? Never mind better infrastructure or hiring teacher’s aides or bringing back programs like the Teaching Fellows or building schools that don’t look strikingly similar to prisons. Just add a few dollars to the paycheck and it’ll all be fine.
The email starts with the sentence, “Every year there is a debate about teacher compensation.” It could have stopped there and we would still get the message.
The point of Curtis’s response was this — if this teacher is “embarrassed” by her profession, the logical move would be that she transition into the private sector while demanding the benefits of a public sector job. That’d work out real well.
Curtis’s response was sarcastic and heavy handed, but that’s pretty much expected from a staunchly conservative politician who was elected to get the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck when confronted with an equally sarcastic complaint from a public sector employee.
The thought that simply being a warm body in a classroom, or at any job, should guarantee a set salary with a scheduled raise each year is preposterous, and it’s insulting to the teachers who put in the effort to mold students that are prepared for the workforce or college upon graduation.
There’s the other problem of this idea of “respect” for teachers from politicians. I take it as a badge of honor that there are politicians who don’t like me, who don’t appreciate the work we do. That means we’re doing our jobs. There are a few good politicians out there, to be sure, but many are power hungry ideologues with a hallucinatory view of the reality of living in this country in 2014. Those are not the kind of people I want to count among my admirers.
Michael Gebelein is managing editor of the Lincoln Times-News.