Will you please stop whining!

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By John Barnhart

    A delegation from the teachers’ union showed up at last week’s board of supervisors meeting to whine about their pay. What a tragic tale they told! Maybe they should have brought somebody in to play sad music as their woeful story unfolded.
    “It’s just not possible to get to the end of the month on their salary,” whined one teachers’ union representative.
    Keep in mind that these are all people who are making at least $35,699 per year, according to the current teacher’s pay scale for the current school year. I found this scale on Bedford County Public Schools’ Web site.
    A long, rambling powerpoint presentation by the teachers’ union representatives contained some anonymous quotes by union members. One of them stated, “I have to have other sources of income to make ends meet.” According to the remainder of the quote, this teacher receives a salary of $40,000 per year. $40,000 per year and this person claims to be unable to make ends meet! Amazing! I sincerely hope that this person is not teaching math or some economics-related course.
    Later during the meeting, Becky Jones, the county’s treasurer, spoke to the supervisors about her office’s success at collecting taxes and fees owed to the county. One thing she noted is that they are taking in less from dog tag fees than in the past. One supervisor asked if this is because of the economy.
    “I know some elderly people who have had to give up their pets because they can’t afford the dog food,” Jones replied.
    So, let’s get this straight. The teachers’ union thinks that these old folks, who had to give up their dogs because they can’t afford to feed them, can afford to pay higher taxes on their homes in order to give a 6 percent raise to somebody who already makes $40,000 per year. This is so disgusting that it makes me want to throw up every time I think of it. These teachers’ union representatives should be ashamed of themselves!
    That said, a teacher pay raise may be in order. In the midst of the teachers’ union power point presentation were some slides that compare Bedford County’s teacher pay to 10 nearby school divisions. Bedford County’s teacher pay is in the middle of the pack at most levels, descending to the bottom at the upper levels of the pay scale. This brings up the question of whether Bedford County teachers are being lured away by neighboring school divisions that pay more. The teachers’ union representatives didn’t present statistics on this, preferring to focus on presenting a sob story instead.
    At one point the teacher's union representative whined that a majority of Bedford County teachers have master’s degrees and that they had to pay for this education out of their own pocket. I am very skeptical of the contention that a kindergarten teacher with a master’s degree is a better kindergarten teacher than one with a bachelors degree. However, I’m sure that a kindergarten teacher with five years experience is a better kindergarten teacher than one who is fresh out of college. Furthermore, one with 10 years experience is probably a better kindergarten teacher than one who has been teaching for five years.
    The school board will be making the decision on teacher pay and the key issue board members need to look at is whether Bedford County Public Schools is serving as a training ground for teachers who end up taking their experience to other, higher paying school divisions. While Bedford County teachers are not living in anything approaching poverty, the county’s schools must pay a salary sufficient to be competitive with other school divisions. If the county is routinely losing experienced teachers to other school divisions with higher pay, then teacher’s pay must be raised to a level high enough to stop the hemorrhage.
    If that is not the case, then the pay scale should remain where it is.