Story last updated at 3:10 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2002

Teachers deserve respect
Teachers are expected to do more and more each year. As parents, we want them to teach our kids manners, proper public behavior, and how to share and get along with their peers. As a society we expect them to include all children regardless of special needs or handicaps, (as it should be). As a nation we expect them to get each child to pass the high school benchmark exams.

How can our teachers meet all of these goals, with fewer (or no) classroom aides, with 35 kids in a class, and not enough funds to buy classroom supplies to adequately do their job? How can teachers keep track of 35 students? Is their time best spent keeping track of students, or teaching them reading, language, math, science, history, social studies, and if the budget doesn't cut them out, art, music and PE?

I often hear the argument "they knew what they were getting into, if they don't like it, they should quit. Besides, they get all that summer vacation." I don't think this is fair.

Most of the teachers I know work eight hours a day at school, with a 20- to 30-minute lunch break. Most take work home or stay late to grade papers, prep for their classes, and deal with parents, required meetings and after school business, making their workday about 10 hours long. Most work at least one day each weekend.

Add that overtime up and put it against their summer break, and it brings their summer vacation down to about three weeks. Teachers and school staff do not get paid for their overtime.

How many of us in the private sector work from 12 to 14 hours overtime each week without putting it on our time card? How many of us spend up to $1,000 each year buying supplies to do our job? How many of us give up a weekend day without pay, for our job?

We could argue that these teachers don't need to invest this time and money in their jobs. Yes, that's true. But do you want your child in a classroom with a teacher that won't spend that extra time and effort? I doubt it. None of us would.

That's what makes teachers valuable. They do their jobs because they love the kids. And for most of them, it's not a choice. They are committed to doing the best job they can for each child, and their schools. As far as the teachers "quitting if they don't like it," do we really want our experienced, quality teachers quitting? Do we really want to create a high turnover environment in the teaching profession? I hope not.

Let's support our schools and our teachers. Are sales taxes the answer? Capping the permanent fund, state income tax? I don't know. But we aren't talking about free daily childcare, we're talking about quality education for our kids.

Something has to be done to make things better. Please speak out in support of your schools and teachers.

Janet McNary