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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Q: Where are teachers Cadilac benefits and large salaries? A: Nowhere they don't exist

From the New York Times

by Anna Phillips

Like many teachers, Jamie Fidler does not end her workday when her students go home, mainly because she cannot afford to, she says.

At 3:30 p.m., when the last class ends, Ms. Fidler, a first-grade teacher at Public School 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, heads to her second job, where she tutors children until 5:30.

And three years ago, when she was first approached about being in a film about how teachers’ salaries and diminished public respect push them out of the profession, Ms. Fidler had a third job, and a child on the way.

“Every teacher I know has second jobs or third jobs, and that doesn’t include working over the summer,” Ms. Fidler said.

Ms. Fidler is one of four teachers featured in a documentary, “American Teacher,” that will be released next Friday.

The film is a rebuttal of sorts to the politicians and others who are eager to battle unions and write teachers off as the overprotected recipients of Cadillac benefits, extended summer vacations and low expectations.

“American Teacher” is based on a book called “Teachers Have It Easy,” which was written by Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari, who are also the documentary’s producers.

Ms. Calegari, a former teacher, and Mr. Eggers, the author of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and other books, are also the founders of 826 National, a nonprofit publishing and tutoring organization.

The film was directed by Vanessa Roth and narrated by the actor Matt Damon.

The documentary asks a question the education reform movement seems to neglect: Why flood American schools with young, highly educated teachers if the good ones cannot afford to stay?

According to a 2006 survey by the National Education Association that is cited in the film, 62 percent of American teachers have jobs outside of the classroom. They coach local sports teams, tutor high school students for the SAT, run after-school programs.

Because of the pay and working conditions, almost half of them leave the profession within five years.

“It’s not the starting salaries; it’s that there’s no upside,” Ms. Calegari, who taught in various school districts for almost 10 years, said in a phone interview. “Doctors don’t make a lot of money when they’re residents, but later in their careers they can do very well. If you’re a teacher, the problem is you can’t grow in that profession. You can’t save money and buy a house.”

Ms. Calegari said she did not expect school districts to raise salaries without compromises from teachers.

She said she also did not oppose paying teachers more if they did an especially good job (provided the evaluation system measuring that performance was not based solely on test scores) — something that teachers unions have, until recently, stoutly resisted.

Teachers’ salaries in New York City are higher than in much of the country, but so are their expenses.

The average starting teacher salary in the United States is $39,000; in the city it is roughly $45,500. At the top of the pay scale, teachers nationally make an average of $67,000, while in New York City the maximum salary for a public school teacher is slightly more than $100,000. (In the suburbs around New York City, the average and top salaries can be much higher.)

Ms. Fidler, 35, has a master’s degree, has been teaching for eight years and has a $75,000 salary.

“When I hear about what teachers are making in Arizona or Texas, I think New York City is in a different place than that, and it’s the union that’s fought for us to be in that place,” Ms. Fidler said. “At least for me, it’s something I’m grateful for.”

“American Teacher,” which was independently made, now has the backing of both major teachers unions, as well as praise from Arne Duncan, the United States secretary of education.

A closed screening is being held in New York on Sunday; for a week starting next Friday, the film will be shown at the AMC Empire 25 theater on West 42nd Street in Manhattan. It also will have screenings around the country.

1 comment:

  1. Our DCPS wages suck. Last year, I made $39,196 after teaching 8 years.