Public unions are getting a lot of mileage right now over claims that they are fighting for working families. They want the narrative to cast beleaguered, overworked teachers against government and corporate fat cats.
Yet for real working families, this story looks a little different. For the truly needy, the truly downtrodden among us, this fight looks an awful lot like union fat cats taking advantage of a public increasingly spiraling toward poverty.
As the Fellowship has noted before, public school teachers nationwide earn a higher salary than the average citizen and enjoy benefits unheard of in most private companies. For a more intense look at the chasm between teachers and their communities, consider the following facts about life in America….
- 14 percent of us live below the poverty line.
- Nearly 20 percent of us are underemployed.
- According to the USDA, more than 22 percent of all of our children live in households that struggle to put food on the table.
- An average household in this country does not have school-age children living there, yet they are required to pay all applicable taxes toward their local school system.
- The average citizen pays 10 percent of their income to state and local authorities.
- States’ most lucrative money makers – gasoline tax, cigarette tax, driver license fees, and retail sales tax – are well documented to suck money from the working poor the most.
- Concerned, taxpaying parents have almost no power to get an ineffective teacher fired or to arrange for their child to enroll at a different school.
- Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to assure their children attend school, but they have no power over how many days the schools are closed for teacher workshops.
Looking past the national trends, specific local examples are even more egregious.
Your humble blogger did some snooping in a nearby district, namely Chesterfield, Virginia. My findings were disappointing. Junior high teachers in Chesterfield earn a typical salary of $45,000. Meanwhile, more than 500 students enrolled in that system are known to be homeless.
Across the nation, even more drastic examples can be found. In Camden, New Jersey, one of America’s poorest places, almost half of all residents live in poverty and the average income is less than $20,000…. but if you want to be a public school teacher in Camden, you can expect to be paid some $62,000 a year.
Why the discrepancy? Because the New Jersey Educators Association tends to negotiate things on a statewide basis – meaning salary demands for the whole lot are based on the cost of living in posh cities like Teaneck. The director of NJEA was paid over $500,000 in salary and related benefits in 2009.
In wealthy states like California, a whopping 9o percent of community college students need remedial classes in math. These studies have to be paid for but will not count toward a college degree until they pass the remedial stage. An average teacher in California earns $59,000 and only has about 21 students in a classroom.
Ask anyone with a job in the private sector what would happen if 90 percent of their work came out botched while they continued to lobby their boss for more money.
Do I mention these things to gin up class warfare? Not at all. My point in all this is very simple: communities are running out of wealth to pour into public schools. While teachers scream in protest and secure phony medical notes to keep their jobs, their own neighbors are sinking into poverty.
To care about the little guy, to be concerned for the working poor, is to join the fight against these public unions. Their bosses (and by extension their members) are quite literally sucking food out of the mouths of poor families to prop up lavish compensation packages.
That is why I have chosen to stand up for the little people.