Sunday, January 13, 2013

Comments in the Seattle Times

In the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times there is an article about education funding and how the State House and Senate is going to find ways to comply with the court mandate to fully fund basic education.  As of 4:00 on Sunday, there are 145 comments, mostly negative toward teachers.  I posted the following comment.  I don't know if it will make a difference, but I felt compelled to respond.  I have posted the comment below.  Long time readers of this blog will know this is not the first time I have written a comment like this.  I thank them for their understanding:


I teach mathematics at Ingraham High School in Seattle.  I have been reading these comments with a combination of shock and bemusement.  Shock that so many people hate teachers (when did we become the bad guys?) and bemusement that, in general, teachers are considered lazy, incompetent, and are living high on the hog with what we are paid and all the time off we get. 

I am in my 8th year as a teacher, but I did not start teaching till I was 45.  This is my second career.  I love what I do and I am considered by the people who matter, my principal, my fellow math teachers, my students and the parents of my students to be quite good at what I do.  I leave school at the end of every day exhausted but fulfilled because I am making a difference and when I die, I will be able to say that I contributed to making Seattle a better place by educating some of its children.

I am going to lay my cards face up on the table.  My undergrad degree is in Accounting and my Masters is in Finance.  My last full year before I went back to school to become a teacher (2002), I made $75,000 (including bonus) working as an analyst for a bank in downtown Seattle.  I had a fully paid (meaning my contribution toward premiums was $0) health care plan that covered both me and my wife.  It included a generous array of health care providers, including dental, vision, and mental health.  I also had a defined benefit pension plan paid entirely by the bank that would have paid me the average of my last 5 years of my salary and a 401(k) that was matched by the bank up to 4% (I think) of what I made.  I was a very well compensated private sector employee. 

In 2012, working for the Seattle Public Schools, I made $62,000.  This is lower than 2011.  On top of this, I have to pay $175/month to have the Group Health “Low Option” plan to cover both my wife and myself.  On January 1, 2013 this increased to $210.  It is not nearly as comprehensive as the plan I had at the bank, the deductibles are way higher and the care not as good (though I do like and respect my doctor), but we have to make some choices.  Better plans cost way more.  I am required to contribute 5% of my salary to the defined benefit retirement plan that will pay me 1% of my highest salary for each year that I work (if I work for 25 years, I get 25% of my highest salary).  I can contribute to a 503(b), but it is not matched by the district.  This is not nearly as good a package as in the private sector.  To make ends meet, I teach Summer School and night school at the community college.  Yes it makes my day longer, I don’t really get my “summers off,” but I do what I have to make ends meet.  Yes, I just get done with a 2 week winter break, but I was in my room every day the building was open (with the heat off to save money.  It was in the mid 50’s) because I had papers to grade and projects to review. 

Another recurring comment is how lazy and unmotivated teachers are.  I am in the building at 6:30 am most mornings (6:40 if my wife wants me to get her an espresso!).  I use that time to prepare relevant and interesting lessons for my students.  I also use it to grade.  Students (and their parents) always want to know what their grade is.  I have 162 students in 5 classes this year.  The total I am supposed to have is no more than 150, but we are a school on the rise, so enrollment is going up and we have been told by the district there will be no more teachers.  I am not the only teacher at Ingraham that has huge class sizes.  School starts at 8:00 and gets out at 2:30.  Monday and Wednesdays, I stay till 4:00, planning, grading, and meeting with students, parents, other teachers or administrators.  I then leave to go teach at the college.  Class starts at 6:00 and gets done at 8:20.  On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, I stay till 5:00 (well, I may leave at 4:00 on Fridays).  I like to think that the taxpayers of Washington (of which I and all teachers are) are getting an honest days’ labor for my salary.  I also find myself in the library on weekends working on lessons.

I share this with you, not to complain, I went into teaching with my eyes wide open.  I love my job.   I feel honored that I get to teach math to your children and I take that responsibility seriously.  But I share all of this to give one person’s (though not unique) situation.  I know many of you are struggling to make ends meet also.  I know many of you would love to have a job that makes $62,000/year with health care.  I understand that.  If you will support me, instead of denigrate me, I will give everything I have to make sure your child does not end up in your situation.  I know every parent wants a better life for their child.

I closing, I just read the 2012 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll on education in America.  This is the 44th year this survey has been done, and it is full of many interesting results.  The one that brings a smile to my face is that while most people think that the nation’s education system is not very good and needs reforming, the schools in their local area are quite good.  It is the other guys’ school that has issues.  I hope we can see that we all have responsibility for the education of all our children and we will put aside the “I have mine, forget everyone else” ethic that seems so prevalent.  The more educated we are, the stronger we are.


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, congratulations Mr. Rice. I can only wish that my child will go to your class one day!
HIMS mom

Patrick said...

Well written, Mr. Rice. Do not despair at the comments in the Times. Some people will hate unions, public employees, and pretty much everything no matter what. Your comment will make people who have not yet made up their minds think a bit.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that most of the positive comments come from the parents of those you serve, colleagues, and people who know what's up. And the rest are from talk radio, talking point fed yahoos, basically. I'm generalizing of course, but I'm about 98% accurate, nonetheless. I love when they decry "Sociasm" and advocate for "vochers," too. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

some of those people are also probably paid to post the way they do.

one tactic i have found useful in talking to people about ed deform is to move the conversation away from 'lazy teachers' toward the motivations of the ed deformers. the ed deformers want the conversation to focus on bad teachers & the supposedly bad education they dole out -- because it keeps the light off the real aims of the deformers.

it's not really about improving education: it's about privatizing it.

some people don't like paying for public schools. they will like it even less when they're paying the same or more but the money is being sucked out of their communities into the coffers of national or multinational education corporations. this aspect is still little-known to the general public.

hannah b

Anonymous said...

If I ruled the world you'd make 100k and the 24 year veteran who shows up at 7:55 and won't answer emails would get paid 35k. Unions protect your rights but also foster corruption. How are we going to fix that?
Mixed feelings

dan dempsey said...

Here is the latest from Rueven Carlyle:

http://reuvencarlyle36.com/2013/01/13/2013-session-issues-intrigue-optimism-systems/

Note: He never mentions Common Core State Standards but talks about flexibility.

The way that CCSS is currently being implemented in most places is NOT about flexibility.

So much for where the money is going and what kind of flexibility teachers like Mr. Rice may have.

Charlie Mas said...

Whenever people complain to me about the comments on this blog and they tell me that mean comments here by our readers diminishes the image and credibility of the blog I always ask those folks what they think of the Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times has, without a doubt, the meanest, most illogical, most ill-informed comments of any local press. By the logic of the complainers, the Seattle Times, therefore, must be the least credible source of information on education.

Oh. Wait. The Seattle Times is the least credible source of information on education.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

A really impressive and courageous post to lay out the particulars and the financials. I agree that the animosity has grown tremendously and it's ridiculous for teachers to be painted with such a broad and ugly brush as lazy, incompetent union stooges. Thank you for the work you do, Mr. Rice, and the commitment you bring to it.

Anonymous said...

Wow what great piece. I don't think the general public has any idea how much teachers care and work!! I really appreciate all you do. Keep up the good work--at the end of the day or your life you will have a smile on your face and know that you influenced a person for the rest of their lives.

SPS Teacher

word said...

My experience over the last 5 years with a child in the SPS is that the teachers are holding this district together in the face of a dithering and, frankly, often malevolent central administration. I am so glad we did not opt for private school though because we would not have had the experience of knowing some of the unbelievably skilled and dedicated SPS teachers. Kudos to all of you.

Anonymous said...

As a website owner/publisher/editor, I need to point out something I sometimes have to do with my own readers: Please don't take 140 or so comments out of that site's hundreds of thousands of readers and extrapolate "so many people hate teachers." I say the same thing on my site, read by 125,000, when someone despairs at double-digit comments about something: That's not representative. FAR more people read stories than ever comment. And the people who are motivated to comment tend to be the ones with a criticism or beef. I wish it weren't so. I try to call out and thank people for thoughtful comments. We don't allow the really trashy stuff through. But still - if there are no positive or encouraging or constructive-criticism comments, you can't make them up, you can only as a site owner work with those who care to comment. So please DON'T feel like dozens of jerks represent hundreds of thousands of people. They don't. - Tracy @ WSB

Anonymous said...

It is really better to prepare for your retirement and have some savings. Good long term care and a nice condominium is really good. My relatives managed to get a good place in a new york retirement community and all their hard work has been worth it.