My Turn: Teachers, like the rest of us, don't work for free

I don’t know about you, but I don’t work for free. I didn’t work for free when I worked for someone else, and now that I’m a small business owner I still don’t work for gratis.

Since I make my living on short- and long-term contracts, I always craft a contract with my clients that states what the project will entail, how many hours it will take and the cost.

As I understand it, despite negotiations that started in February 2013, Juneau School District teachers do not have a contract in place for this school year. I also understand that most teachers put in more time than their contracted hours. In fact, it’s an industry norm that teachers grade papers, meet with parents and help students after school on their own time.

I would imagine that federal or state workers, along with private sector employees, would not be apt to work on weekends or stay after hours for free. Sure, there is the time when you put in an extra hour here or there of your own time, but that usually is a personal choice. If I choose to donate my time to a specific project, that’s different than a mainstay client expecting me to work 20 hours on a campaign but only be paid for fifteen hours.

While it is unfortunate that winter concerts and other events have been cancelled due to this labor dispute, teachers should not be providing these services if they are not being paid for their time. They are not volunteers; they are Juneau School District valued employees.

I want to support teachers and help them give our children the best education possible. Teachers are just like the rest of us — they want to do a good job and get paid a fair wage. Even if you love your job, if you feel like you are being treated unfairly it will seep into your day-to-day tasks.

Unlike other states that are operating in the red, Alaska has money. In fact, it’s one of the richest states in the nation. Recently, the State Offices Compensation Commission proposed to spend some of that money to raise the salaries of Gov. Sean Parnell, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and other top state department heads. But, for some reason, the Juneau School District does not have the funds to come to terms with the teachers union to pay them a fair wage.

I support teachers. I support providing a great education to all students in Alaska. It’s time for the Juneau School District and the State of Alaska to increase their investment in education to meet the current needs of both schools and teachers. It’s an investment that will yield real results like higher graduation rates, children prepared for a tight global market, and the creation of Alaska’s future leaders. Now, that’s what I call a good investment for Alaska.

• Joan Pardes is a Juneau resident and is owner of Pardes Public Relations.

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