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Hard to sympathize with teacher demands

Because the 190 teachers in the South Harrison Community School Corp. have held out for a three-percent raise, they have worked without a contract since Aug. 1.
Teachers who work in the SHCSC schools asked for a three-percent increase in pay for the 2001-2002 school year.
This increase was denied by the school board because of a lack of funds, due to state budget cuts. A two-percent, one-time bonus or stipend was offered, but the teachers rejected it, saying their bottom line was still a three-percent raise.
South Harrison Education Association (SHEA) president Glenn Thienel says teachers in the two other school districts in Harrison County got pay increases this year, so South Harrison should be able to afford an increase in teacher salaries also.
Teachers justify their salaries because they have a lot of time and money invested in their educations, they have to put up with our children all day, and they work hard educating the future leaders of our country.
They often compare themselves to people working in the private sector and say they could make more money there with the same level of education.
Let’s take a realistic look at South Harrison’s teacher pay scale in terms we can all understand.
Exhibit 1: The average income for a Harrison County resident is about $23,877, or less than $12 per hour, according to stats for 1999 from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Teacher salaries most likely help push this average up.
Exhibit 2: SHCSC teachers are paid a first-year starting salary of $28,583. At the top of the pay scale, with a master’s degree and 30 years of experience, they are paid $53,885, Thienel said.
Exhibit 3: A first-year teacher, just out of college, with only a bachelor’s degree and no work experience, will earn almost $5,000 per year more than the average Harrison County resident. Experienced teachers can earn more than double the average county income. The average teacher salary is about $30,525.
Exhibit 4: Teachers in Indiana are required to work 185 7-1/2-hour days per year compared to the 244 eight-hour days the rest of us work. That works out to 1,387.5 hours a year that teachers are required to work. Teachers work 612.5 hours less than the 2,000 hours most other workers log on their jobs in a year.
Exhibit 5: In a peer poll taken by SHEA of South Harrison teachers, it was estimated that teachers work an average of 100 hours beyond the contract requirement, doing tasks for the school such as collecting tickets at ball games. That brings their total hours worked per year to 1,487.5. Still far less than the 2,000 hours worked by most Harrison County workers.
Exhibit 6: If you divide the 612.5 fewer hours teachers work, by the 40 hours worked in a normal week, we find that teachers work 15.3125 weeks less than the average Harrison County worker.
Exhibit 7: If you then divide the top teacher salary of $53,885 by the 1,387.5 hours they are required to work, you’ll realize some teachers are paid as much as $38.83 per hour. Or about $26 an hour more than the county average wage.
Exhibit 8: Teachers who coach academic or athletic teams or teach driver’s education, are paid extra above their base salaries.
And, still, the teachers are holding out for a three-percent raise.
Exhibit 9: A three-percent pay raise at the top of the pay scale would amount to $1,616.55, and at the lower end it would amount to $857.49.
Isn’t teaching a noble profession or calling, which provides both tangible and non-tangible rewards far beyond money, for the people pursuing these professions?
I thought teaching was about seeing young minds come alive when they discover something new or understand something for the first time.
Is teaching about making money and counting the hours worked, or is it about teaching our young people to become the future leaders of our country?
Maybe some teachers should move into the private sector and experience corporate life with all its stress to perform, time cards, down-sizing and middle management lay-offs. They might enjoy working the long hours required by many companies to get promoted.
In every profession, it’s good to be valued and rewarded for your efforts. An annual pay increase is one way an employer shows his appreciation to his employees, but, sometimes, even in the private sector, there just isn’t any money for a pay raise.
On May 30, the state contract mediator, Vicki Martin, will be in Corydon along with the SHCSC’s chief negotiator, Chuck Rubright, to work out a solution to this contract impasse.
It would be a good time for the South Harrison school board and the teachers to work together to find a way to reach a contract agreement that will benefit everyone in the school system, including the students.