Same goals, different paths

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2001

Ms. McKenna's personal attack on me is unfortunate. She not only distorts what I wrote but apparently fails to grasp my message. For example, I never wrote teachers "work a mere 4.5 hours a day." What I did write, in the context of criticizing the short contract day/year, was that teachers "average about 4.5 hours daily of classroom instruction" and given the short year there is not adequate time for instruction. This is fact. However, it even gets better. Apparently I insinuated teachers "don't care about my students, that I hardly work each day and that I don't deserve a salary commensurate with other public sector workers...." I never stated or implied any such thing. However, I must note that I have yet to meet many of the one-third of our public sector workers with salaries around $7,000/month. I apparently don't move in the right circles.

I simply reported the lowest teacher salary ($3,732/month) and the highest ($7,188) and observed that about one-third of Juneau teachers are at or near the top of the salary schedule. Apparently simply stating these figures is somehow anti-teacher. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that there are many priorities, limited funding, and hard decisions need to be reached.

Now, Ms. McKenna argues we should blame those who "manage the budget" and "determine fiscal allocations." Very good point. However, I never heard any teacher indicate they would sacrifice one cent of their salary increase in order to hire additional teachers to meet student needs. But she is right, the school board does approve the budget. The purpose of my article was to explain that my priorities are with the needs of students and parents, i.e. I want to aid the student new to the English language, offer more to the struggling and gifted students, restore full-time librarians, provide additional counselors, etc. I would like to hire more people like Ms McKenna, or at least more teachers. I concluded that it is imprudent to increase teacher salaries by 5.5 percent and by such action not address any of these critical needs. About 90 percent of all district expenditures are for personnel and when you throw in all those "extras" like electricity, heating, etc., there just isn't a whole lot left. She expressed her priorities and I expressed mine. They differ, but there is no need to be uncivil.

Alan Schorr


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