Years ago, while teaching in rural Alaska, I had the good fortune of learning about survival tactics in unforgiving environments. The first step to survival is recognition: You have to realize you're in trouble before taking positive action. The second is inventory. What resources do you have to help you make it through?
Might I be so bold to suggest that the recent letters on the subject of teacher pay and school funding - if they are at all representative of various community perspectives - imply we have recognition? Assembly members Marc Wheeler and Jim Powell note that Juneau teacher salaries are not keeping up with the cost of living or with competition from around the state and nation. Robert Van Slyke concedes that "There is no question that Alaska school districts have lost ground in their ability to compete with districts in many parts of the Lower 48 in attracting well-qualified personnel." And acknowledging that despite traditional step and column raises, Juneau teachers have not had a raise since 1995, Jeff Bush states that "(L)ocal teachers are of the highest quality and deserve a pay raise if this can be done without negatively impacting the quality of education provided to our children."
The trick now, it seems, is to inventory our resources. And while this may entail some disagreement about who bears what part of the responsibility for adequate compensation and productive work conditions for our children's teachers, I'm choosing to have faith that we'll soon get beyond this round of political hot-potato. Frankly, it's good to see this dialogue happening in public. And I'm grateful to all who will be working on behalf of teachers and students to make sure that our schools are places we can be proud of.
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