I have always liked a good argument. In high school, I got two superlatives - one for friendliest, the other for most argumentative. Unfortunately for me, I am not always well versed about the things I argue with people about, but what I lack in knowledge I make up for with passion. Twenty-five years ago, I marched on Washington, tried to stop nuclear power, and spoke out about campus safety. As I have gotten older, there are few things I would defend with such ferocity. Only three, really, named Jillian, Hannah and Max. Nevertheless, there are several things about which I remain quite passionate.
The issue at the top of my list, and fuel for ongoing debate in my home, is the attention we give to professional athletes. Don’t worry – my husband's devotion to New England sports teams more than compensates for my refusal to support this form of entertainment. I just can't get over the venerable status we place on these individuals, not to mention the huge amount of money involved. I read last week that the starting salary for a professional baseball player is $414,000. I know sports are a national pastime, but the disparity between sports and education blows my mind. How can we overlook, underpay, and not recognize our teachers with equal vigor?
I spoke to someone today who was really upset that her child's teacher was absent due to a teacher workshop. She has said to me multiple times that teachers get too much time off. Having worked for a national education conference for many years, I know that teachers are required to get a certain number of CEC's each year and often pay for them out of their own pocket. As the daughter of a teacher, I also know that very few teachers work only the hours children are at school. Many, especially in Windham, work before and after school giving students extra help, running clubs, coaching sports, and preparing lesson plans. Yet I read tonight that the average salary for a masters level teacher in Windham is $54,583.
I think it comes down to economics. Attending a professional sporting event costs money, therefore we place a value on it. Education, by contrast, is perceived to be free, so it has less value. I know that our property tax dollars pay for public education in New Hampshire. But we pay for it kicking and screaming. We put our kids in portables, take away their libraries and argue teacher contracts. In Windham, we are hard pressed to even pass the school budget.
I believe public school teachers and administrators should be compensated as if they are doing a job worthy of national attention. We should provide them with the tools, facilities, and resources they need to educate our students to be champions in a global economy. We should be their biggest fans.