While reading the "Our View" column from July 15, I found myself nodding my head in ascent and felt compelled to write.
I was a former high school teacher for 32 years in Long Island, N.Y. Upon reaching retirement age, I was ready but my wife suggested that I work three more years to get the 2 percent each year which would have given me 6 percent more in retirement. My wife worked as a medical assistant for 16 years.
The New York plan is 2 percent per year each year you worked with a maximum of 70 percent, of your final average salary. They average your last five years of working, which translated, means you end up working more the last five years to augment your retirement! I was coaching three sports, chaperoning trips, and working summer school. I was done!
We sold our home and moved to Pine which we love and of course we don't have New York taxes and other expenses.
(By the way -- for people who say teachers are off in the summer ... they are unemployed in the summer.) I worked every summer except one when I took out a loan and we traveled cross country with our two boys, 7 and 11 at the time. We camped at the National Parks and it was a wonderful experience.
Every three years we would negotiate for smaller classes and a fair raise in our salary. We would end up picketing, marching, etc. Teachers are not allowed to strike in New York. I remember one "fable" we used in our fight for a fair wage for teachers. It went something like this:
"Years ago, when our ancestors settled this country, they had small areas where there were not many children but a school was needed, so they built a school, (much like the Strawberry Schoolhouse!) and hired a teacher. Soon there were more children and they needed to build a larger school. They had to get more teachers, hire a principal to look after the school and monitor the teachers, department heads, business department, secretaries and custodians and more supervisors.
Soon the school got too expensive to run, so they fired some teachers.
Auxiliary personnel are very important and they help maintain a good school, but the moral of the story is that the teachers should be the most important priority, as per your editorial.
My wife and I always thought that a good education was one of most important ingredients for a successful society. Both our sons went to excellent colleges, our oldest to Franklin and Marshall college in Lancaster, Pa. and our youngest to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. We took out loans, but fortunately some of the better schools have financial assistance based on need. Being a teacher qualified us for a lot of assistance.
Our youngest wanted to be a teacher, but we debated it. I said you don't go into teaching and expect to make money, but you should be getting a living wage, and you shouldn't have to fight for it every three years.
Both our sons work for the government. Our youngest is a diplomat for the U.S. State Department and is stationed in northern China. Our oldest is a JAG attorney for the Navy who just returned from an eight-month tour in Iraq.
It's unfortunate that our economy is in such poor shape at this time, and education usually takes a big hit, and cuts are made. Every new government administration talks about doing something for education, but somehow it never gets done. Our children are our future. If we want excellent educators we have to be prepared to pay them a good wage.
Support our teachers and our educational system. They are responsible for our most important natural resource, our children.
A former educator