I grew up in the State of California when we were in the top five for per pupil spending. I enjoyed learning in an open classroom environment and given the opportunity to experience a rich and diverse school culture. In elementary school, as part of the elective cycle, I learned how to take apart and put back together a motorcycle, falconry, and read the great classics. I got to play bass drum in the band which later turned into the glockenspiel in high school, then the French horn, and keyboards in jazz band. I was able to try out for and play any sport I desired. When it came time for selecting a college, I had so many options, and not because of my grades but because California provided funding for higher education. I went to UC Davis and when It came time to get my teaching credential, I entered the CSU system.

In the early-80's, I witnessed a shift in the way public education was funded primarily due to the passage of Proposition 13. The idea behind Prop 13 was attractive to home owners, but little did we know then what the fall out would be as corporations were able to maneuver the loopholes and funding for education started its downward spiral. We hit critical mass in the mid 2000's when the entire nation experienced an economic recession. But financial times have improved and we are on an upturn where many are able to have their buying power restored. Unfortunately, it is taking public schools a lot longer to catch up with other businesses and industry.

A top priority for districts needs to be attracting and retaining the best in the pool of credentialed educators. This demands competitive compensation along with attractive teaching and learning conditions. Districts must prioritize  teaching and learning. This must be reflected in district budgets. We need to stop the practice of negotiating for compensation after the school year has started and budgets are set; especially with budgets that do not factor in salary increases such as COLA (cost of living adjustment), but only consider statutory factors such as health and welfare benefits, retirement, and step/column increases. 

In a recent article (http://www.cta.org/educator) in the Educator, published by CTA, there was discussion about the cost of living where teachers work. The hard truth is it is very difficult for teachers to live in the areas where they work. And with more and more responsibilities encroaching on personal time, educators are feeling the hit. Where it was once reasonable to take on another job outside of teaching in order to make ends meet, many are finding it impossible because of the demands of Common Core, NGSS, RTI, and other programs/curriculum adopted by districts. We are seeing a time when teachers cannot even afford to retire: the inability to maintain any sort of 403b or 457 plan as they live paycheck to paycheck or risk having to sell their homes in order to finance retirement. There is no long term security.

And yet, honestly, compensation is far from the every-day mind of teachers. If asked, what do teachers make? Well, the best answer I ever heard is in the video clip:
In hearing what teachers honestly make, one would hope that districts would take it upon themselves and reward such commitment, passion, and dedication.

There is the need to reform how education is funded especially in our State which is now in the bottom percentage. Yes, it will take tax changes, ballot initiatives, and legislative action. But it will also take districts looking at what is their top priority. Our students are our most valuable asset. Each of them only gets one chance--there are no "do overs." Today is the only time these kids will be in my classroom and I have that one shot to help make a difference. 
 

    Authors

    Laura Finco is a Grade 8 Science educator at Stone Valley Middle School. When she is not in her classroom, Laura is either in Sacramento advocating for teachers' rights in order to protect our students or more casually, working with her golden retrievers in the agility ring

    The SRVEA blog is written by teachers for teachers. Anyone is invited to share their thoughts. If you would like to submit a blog post, please send it to SRVEA Communications.

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