Kathryn Lacey asked an interesting question recently. “How many of your teachers can you remember?” she wondered. “Can you make a list naming them?”
Lacey, who is decades removed from her own education, remembers every one of her teachers. “That’s because they were important people in my life,” she said. “I bet you remember most of your teachers, too.”
Lacey was so influenced by her teachers that she became one. Now retired, she taught at Moriah Central School.
Can you name teachers from your school days? Probably so. Lacey is right. Teachers have played and still do play important roles in our lives.
We should keep that in mind as school districts prepare 2012-13 budgets.
In recent years, as school taxes have increased, teachers have become an easy target of frustrated, angry people caught in a squeeze between stagnant incomes and a growing cost of living.
It’s not right to blame teachers for the problems of a national recession.
The truth is teachers have made greater sacrifices than any other group as schools struggle to improve student performance and reduce costs.
In the past few years virtually every teacher union in the North Country has made concessions — pay cuts, pay freezes, increased health insurance costs, longer hours, additional workloads and more.
And despite those concessions, teachers have still lost their jobs. Schools across New York have lost a total of 30,000 educator positions in the last three years, nearly 14 percent of the teaching workforce, according to the state education department. Last spring more than 7,000 teachers were laid off in New York and another 4,000 teaching positions went unfilled.
The number of out-of-work teachers is certain to grow as school boards work to meet the new 2 percent tax cap this spring.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed an $800 million increase in state aid to education this year. That’s an improvement from last year, but little of that money is expected to reach the North Country.
Again local school boards will face difficult decisions in preparing their 2012-13 budgets. In fact, this year could be even more difficult since many school districts are running low on fund balances that were used to get by in recent lean years. And despite promises from the governor, there has been no mandate relief for local schools who must still pay for decisions made in Albany.
Hopefully these difficult decisions can be made in the best interests of students and taxpayers without vilifying teachers. If teachers must be cut it should be done with sincere regret and disappointment after exhausting all other options.
We should remember teachers are much more than employees; they’re members of our communities. They raise families, work hard and contribute to our towns like all other residents. They face rising taxes, too — they pay the same school taxes as everyone else. And, like the rest of us, they must deal with increasing costs for gas, heat, food, education and more.
As teachers cope with the stresses of a recession and possible loss of their jobs they shouldn’t have to face the anger of neighbors.
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