Letter: Strike? Teachers need to be in the classroom, raises or no

Dear Editor,

I teach in one of West Virginia’s many public schools and have done so since 2005. I do not belong nor have I ever joined AFT nor WVEA. I am not in favor of walking out or striking over the proposed pay raise or the fiasco that is PEIA.

I am not opposed to walking out or striking because my college degrees somehow make me better than a coal miner or other tradesman. Any person who crawls to the depths below to provide for their families deserve and have the highest respect from a simple civics teacher such as myself and countless more. In truth, all of us in education have a greater appreciation for our coal miners than most because we are more than well-aware that it has been the revenues from the severance taxes that have paid a large portion of our salaries, benefits, supplies and facilities as well as provided heat, light and electricity so that we teachers can do our priceless and too often undervalued work.

My opposition to striking is simply because we teachers are not coal miners. When coal miners go on strike, it is the coal company that hurts. As we all know, hurting the bottom line and the profit-margin of a corporation is the best way to get their undivided attention. When we educators strike or walk out, who are we hurting? I am as frustrated, discouraged and, yes, a bit impatient with our state legislature. But, if I go on strike, it does not inconvenience any member of the West Virginia State Legislature. My students who rely on myself and my colleagues are the ones who miss out. My students depend on me to challenge their thinking, open their eyes and ears, broaden their minds and horizons, find and hone their own voices, and instill and inscribe both hope and pride.

We are only allocated 180 days a year to do our invaluable work. We teachers lose more hearts and minds when we strike than we ever gain. We as a profession, community and calling must be mindful of those who misguide us and use us as pawns for political posturing. We should be ever careful not to botch our limited opportunities to teach, coach, counsel, advise, mentor, inspire and guide our state’s most precious natural resource. Is there not some other way we can effectively and sufficiently voice our more than legitimate concerns and frustrations?

To those who have sworn the oath to serve in the W.Va. Legislature, I will concede that significantly raising teacher salaries is not the silver bullet to fixing the struggles we face in our public schools. Will you concede that tax cuts are not the silver bullet for all of our state’s economic challenges? I know and understand the need and desire to get new companies to move, invest and grow roots here in West Virginia. I very well understand and comprehend that that will lead to greater tax revenue and a better future for all of West Virginia. But, can you ensure us in more than words that you will not give away the store? Is it too much to ask that these new companies you hope to recruit not only provide job opportunities to our citizens and my students, but also invest in our communities, our schools, our students and our teachers?

I may or may not be in the minority, but I can be patient and wait a little longer for a more significant pay raise. Besides every time in my few years of teaching we have been granted a pay raise, PEIA has found a way, before or quickly thereafter, to raise premiums, deductibles or other means that virtually negate that pay raise. In a sense, teachers have been downgraded to middlemen. We simply get a raise from the state legislature then end up handing it over to PEIA, every single time. For our fellow West Virginians who serve as police officers, corrections officers and other state and public employees; their premiums have gone up without a raise, every single time. It should not be too much to ask that those of us who sacrifice and serve that we have adequate and affordable health care. For the time being, I will take that over the proposed 1 percent pay raise. Finally, I want to advocate those in Charleston to improve our public schools. Not another surface scratching reform, but meaningful, practical, effective and genuine educational reform. Instead of lowering the grading scale, reducing graduation requirements and downgrading physical education; let us do what is necessary to raise graduation rates and simultaneously raise the quality of those graduates’ education. The changes to policy 2510 presented to and recently approved by the West Virginia Board of Education are another prime example of insincere attempts to improve our schools, but in reality, those revisions will only change numbers instead of minds. How can I as a teacher in the classroom effectively advocate not for higher pay or better benefits, but advocate as a teacher for students and better public schools?

C. Bryan Daugherty, TFS

Harrisville, W.Va.


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