Second Friday in September, end of the first full week of classes, first Pay Day of the new school year.
My friend Brutus asked, “How is your year going?”
I was pleased to honestly answer, “Well, it is going well. My year is off to a good start.”
I teach subjects that I like to a manageable number of students who are interested and involved. Teaching periods 1-5 forces me to be fully prepared and the new responsibilities of being CEA President are challenging and time consuming but rewarding. I have made the transition from summer days, taking extended bike rides after coming home from my part time job, and evenings with no bed time, to measuring my time in units of 48 minutes begun and ending with a bell.
I like being a teacher. I like coming to work. I whistle in the stairways. Actually, I love being a teacher. I am fortunate to have found a profession that suits my personality and rewards me with a sense of accomplishment.
Of course, there is a difference between loving the profession and doing it for love. So like many of you, I was glad to have been paid today.
I am one of those people who look at my pay stub. I note the date and my hourly rate. The total pay, deductions, net direct deposit; it all looks, oh, so familiar. Too familiar. My hourly wage, (so misleading, as if we work only 30 hours a week) and my personal and sick days, have not changed from the last pay stub of June 2014.
I did expect to be paid. I looked forward to it. I did not expect to be paid any more money than last year. We are currently working under an expired contract so all terms and conditions of the previous agreement, including pay, continue without change. According to the expired agreement, we are entitled to 15 sick days per year and one personal day which are not reflected on my pay stub. I am sure the balance of sick and personal hours will be corrected to reflect the 2014-15 school year. I am also optimistic that we will eventually receive retro checks reflecting a pay raise.
The Unit A bargaining Team returns to the table 9/18/14. Both sides have agreed to an October 31st deadline to come to an agreement. I have called a meeting November 3, to tell you if we have an agreement or not, if it is trick or treat.
A report from NEA Research, which is based on US census data, finds that annual pay for teachers has fallen sharply over the past 60 years in relation to the annual pay of other workers with college degrees. According to the NY Times, the average elementary school teacher in the United States earns about 67 percent of the salary of an average college-educated worker in the United States.
I believe that our wages should fairly reflect the contribution our profession makes to our democracy. I hope the Mayor and School Committee will make a commitment to pay Chicopee educators a fair wage. I expect we will be offered another round of 1% yearly increases as we have for the past four years which will push us farther behind both the annual inflation rate of 6.8% from 2011-2013 and the 2014 Cost-of-Living Adjustment of 1.5% that Social Security beneficiaries receive.
If that is the case, I have a question. How can you say you put students first, if you put teachers last?