When Newsday recently reported that Long Island’s more than 31,000 teachers, administrators and professional staff were making more than $ 100,000 a year, many eyebrows were raised. That’s about two-thirds of all these staff.
These 15,000 educators who earn $ 130,000 a year have raised more. In 112 of our 124 districts, the median salary is over $ 100,000. In 17 districts, the median is over $ 125,000.
The immediate answer is, âDo they deserve it? The most urgent point is, “Can taxpayers afford it?” ”
The questions must be taken together. Neither is straightforward, and COVID has complicated the conversation. Many parents, forced to supervise their children during distance learning, now see teachers as heroes. Others were unhappy that their districts and teachers performed poorly in distance learning, even though teachers continued to be paid in full.
PAY ONE, PAY ALL?
Do educators deserve their salary? The instinctive answer is most of the time “yes”. The best paid bring years of experience and advanced degrees to a crucial task: educating and caring for our children.
It is reasonable for them to enjoy the comfort and financial security and, on the Island, it costs.
But while many teachers are very successful, some are not. And thanks to the philosophy of collective bargaining which says, âWhere there is a difference in pay, there is no union,â virtually everyone is paid as if they were at the top of the class. Teachers run little risk of losing generous positions, salaries and benefits, regardless of their performance.
And the biggest problem with less competent and caring educators is not that they are given too much money, but that they are helping students too little.
These laggards need to be identified, helped to improve, and if they cannot shine, be replaced with stronger teachers and administrators.
Homes on Long Island cost twice the national average, but property taxes quadruple the national standard. The main reason is that teachers’ salaries are about 80% higher than the national average of $ 65,000.
Can we afford it?
If you ask unions the answer will always be yes, and if we ask taxpayers it will often be no, although Long Islanders support their schools, often seeing them as the main selling point of their communities. These taxpayers / voters rarely reject budgets unless they exceed the tax limit and frequently dismiss existing school board members.
GOOD SALARIES AND PROSPERITY
And when education reformers went to war with teachers’ unions ten years ago in an attempt to create objective assessments – an admittedly delicate and delicate task – parents largely supported teachers. Over time, politicians who had supported new curricula and stricter standards for teachers and students lost their courage and the battle.
A society that cannot or does not want to pay good teachers a comfortable salary will not prosper. But if teachers’ unions push to remove the property tax cap, a possibility now that top cap champion Andrew M. Cuomo is no longer a governor, taxes could skyrocket again. This would and should create a taxpayer revolt, as a return to the huge annual increases that double tax bills every 10 or 12 years would be catastrophic for the Island.
In addition, the hidden cost of educator social benefits needs to be more transparent. To say that the median teacher trainer in the highly paid Central Islip district earns $ 127,000 a year only tells half the story: a generous state pension, Cadillac health insurance, the ability to accumulate sick leave and other personal leave for six-figure payments says the rest.
The sick pay policies outlined in the Central Islip Teachers Contract include, for a school year of 182 days:
- Sick leave of 15 days per year, cumulative if not used.
- Five days of personal leave per year, cumulative if not used.
- Five âbedside care daysâ per year, accrued if not used.
- Three days of mourning, to be used in the event of the death of a close relative, which does not accumulate.
Typically, a private sector worker with 10 paid holidays and two weeks vacation works 240 days a year. Central Islip teachers who properly take advantage of all available paid time off could earn their full pay and work just over 150 days.
Educators should be paid like professionals, but districts and teachers should be prepared to do what children deserve in return, and they should do it well.
If students need the school to operate year round or to be open after 3 p.m., educators should help them. While the best or most affordable way to teach an advanced niche subject involves a master teacher who lectures through on-screen teachers and district teachers, enriching this with study groups or sessions. questions, this must also happen.
VALUE FOR TAXPAYERS
But the biggest problem is merit, or lack thereof. Teachers who want to do six figures are like anyone else who wants to do six figures. They must do a good job, based on objective and fair standards.
Long Island’s schools are the backbone of its prosperity and brand awareness, one of the main reasons families come and stay and communities thrive. And families are willing to pay for them, provided they have value. In return, they deserve to know that money pays for great teachers and that districts are doing all they can to keep costs down.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are seasoned journalists who offer reasoned, fact-based opinions to encourage informed debate on the issues facing our community.