Mike Sargent: Now is not the time to raise teacher pay
To the Editor:
I have been reading and hearing about the need to cover a million dollar gap in East Grand County’s school budget. The school board has pushed off hard decisions on to a group of 10 volunteer citizens who make up a District Accountability Committee. They have recommended closing both Fraser and Grand Lake Elementary schools.
Unfortunately, these kind of difficult decisions are being made all over our nation. State and local entities don’t have the luxury that the folks in Washington, D.C. have that allow them to borrow and print money any time there is a financial shortage, bailout or expenditure that’s deemed important without asking the voters.
I noted two items in the Jan. 21 Sky-Hi News article that deserve comment. First, apparently the Accountability Committee considered a 1 percent sales tax and dropped it. It seems that this idea should be back on the table. Visitors who depend upon a strong local community of workers would help pay for schools with their sales taxes. That seems reasonable. Getting a positive vote would take work by the entire community.
Second item is that the teachers would receive a raise after a three-year freeze. I question the timing of this. I think it could be a huge public relations mistake. It sends a message to the community that teachers’ interests come first. I believe kids interests should always be first.
My thinking is as follows. If it is decided to go to voters for a sales tax increase to keep the schools open but at the same time raising teachers’ salaries, it could be the difference in winning or losing the election. We have grand kids in the schools and my wife is a school volunteer and I know our teachers do a terrific job. But the reality of the economy today is everyone is taking a hit. People in the private sector are losing their jobs, having their hours cut, taking cuts in pay and benefits.
Foreclosures are increasing. Small business owners are finding it difficult to get bank loans. A number of businesses have closed. Retired people on fixed income are seeing their income drop with CD interest rates down to 1 percent.
The main reason teachers become teachers is because they love the kids and for the most part would not feel good if their schools were closed to save money but at the same time they were getting pay raises.
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