Friday, September 05, 2008

Education as the Civil Rights Issue of the 21st Century
Back to School Night 2008

I went to Back to School Night at my daughter's public elementary school in Oakland Unified School District last night. Proud to be at a public school and committed to seeing it be a successful place of learning and growth, not just for my children, but for all the children there, I was awestruck as I noticed the reoccurring theme of the evening. We need money. We need more money. Help us raise money for the PTA. The need isn't to raise money for flush expense accounts or company cars. The $100,000 + that the PTA of our school seeks - and has - to raise in order to pay the salary of the school computer teacher, the school music teacher, the school art teacher, the school PE Teacher, an assistant to help the lone school secretary do all she does, and to pay several part-time specialists to help students catch up. The money allocated by the State of California is 95% used up once the Principal hires the necessary teachers (1 per class) and covers the expenses of their salaries and health benefits.

I watched John McCain's speech that ended a few minutes ago at the Republican National Convention, in which he said that Education is the Civil Rights issue of the 21st Century. That there is a need to take on the special interests in education, unions, and bad teachers. I was struck by his comments. I agree it's a HUGE issue yet we're quick to point fingers and place blame on unions, bad teachers, and school district bebeaurcaracy. Yet I learned last night that the starting salary for a new teacher in the Oakland Unified School District (required to have a Bachelors Degree and a Credential that takes 12-18 months of schooling) earns $37,000 for working more than full-time. I was intrigued so I did some research:

$37,000 was a pot of gold starting salary for lawyers in 1980

$37,000 was how much the government spent to house a homeless family in New York in 1986.

An Office Manger with a 2 year Associate Degree and no experience can obtain a starting salary of $37,380.

The Median Salary for Oakland Residents (all careers) with 1 or less years of experience is $48,000

While $37,000 can seem a lot in comparison to starting salaries in other places (Texas for example has a starting salary of $33,000), it isn't sufficient here in the Bay Area where the median income for a 4 person family is $83,000 (according to the info on this page a starting teacher salary qualifies as a very-low income) and the median home price as of this month is $499,000 and where we need quality teachers committed to public education

Undoubtedly Education, free public education, is a huge Civil Right that is absent and quite possibly disappearing today. We want qualified teachers - yet when I look at these salary statistics I wonder why anyone with 5-6 years of higher education would choose to work for $37,000 when they didn't have to. Why if public education is so important to us do we spend such little money on it and expect those that work in Education to make ends meet with little or no resources. What do you think?

I have to go. I need to start trying to find items to auction off at the School Auction seeking to raise nearly $60,000 (that's one and a half teachers for my daughter).

1 comment:

Sarah said...