Teacher's Pet Peeve

To the Editor,

Regarding "More Amphi Antics" (The Skinny, September 9): I have a master's degree, plus 80 graduate units, have taught 24 years, was picked as one of Arizona's top five teachers three years ago, and my pay is less than half of either of my sons' -- who have been in the work force for five years.

I am not burned out; in fact, I honestly love every minute I'm in my classroom. Teenagers make me laugh, and they make me think. I am a born teacher. But I am ready to walk out of my classroom to save a profession that is the most important of any, and the least valued of all.

A bright, young college graduate can not plan a family on $22,300 a year. A person with a master's degree, 12 years experience, the school's teacher of the year, a mother of twins, can not live on $27,000. A single mother of three, Fullbright scholar, multilingual, dedicated teacher with 12 years of experience, shouldn't drive a car with 200,000 miles. But they all do. And their ideals are torn apart daily.

The problem is not Amphitheater Schools, and the issue is not just money. It is value, respect, and above all, fairness.

Why do we always have to work twice as many hours as our spouses to make half as much money? In most teachers' families, we can't afford college for our kids. We can't afford piano lessons, camps, dance lessons, or other educational opportunities that non-educator professionals take for granted. How ironic.

Some people talk about giving back "surplus" taxes to "the people." Teachers are people, and we don't understand the concept of "surplus." Somehow, we've been left out of this economic boom, this busting prosperity. We've "frozen" (that's really what they tell us) at the lowest of the low economic ladder.

It doesn't have to be this way. A former student, age 24, just began teaching in California at a beginning salary of $37,500. Not in a ghetto, but in a small, pretty community near the beach. In Michigan, teachers are making $70,000 to $100,000 or more, with credentials that match my own. Arizona is the worst state in the country for teacher pay. That makes me the lowest of the low. Is the answer to move away?

The staff at our high school is turning over at an alarming rate. Forty percent of our staff is comprised of new, young, idealistic, dedicated people who have replaced those who have left discouraged and demoralized. Those of us who stick around wonder: how long will it take? How long will they stay? How long will they slug out these 80-hour weeks for $22,300? How long will they be willing to eat out once a month, at McDonald's?

We are losing our best teachers every day. I don't blame our superintendent, our school board, our principals or any other educator. I blame you, the public, the person reading this letter who is not insisting publicly that teachers receive respect, priority and value in our state. Instead of doing the right thing, you put your money in private schools, in charter schools, in voucher systems, or back in your pocket.

Arizona is embarrassing. Selfish. Mean. As I move toward my retirement year, I believe I am abandoning my students who are so dear. They want so much, they need so much, and they are receiving less and less every year.

I can't criticize my friends who are leaving this profession. I can only plead with my fellow citizens to stand up for teachers, to make education a priority, and to nurture this new tender generation of teachers with a decent living wage.

-- Cheryle Lockhart

Peace, Please

To the Editor,

In response to David Wilson's well-reasoned letter ("Open Arms," August 19), I would add that the most feared government in the U.S. is our own. I have always assumed that the guns were in case the British tried to get voted into office and then do away with the Constitution.

I tell gun nuts the same story as Wilson, but I say all shotguns in Tucson wouldn't stand a chance against the stuff at D-M, and the more you know it's true. My learned brother-in-law reasons that more armed intelligent people will stop the ignorant and insane. I argue that it is not the ignorant or insane who use the weapons most efficiently, but the intelligent people pushed over the edge by societal pressures.

Finally, it is words, not weapons, that edge the societal milieu back towards balance, harmony and minimization of violence. Guns are the Band-Aid solution you so deride, not the laws against them, for in the end laws are only words backed up by social pressure, not weapons. They don't have guns in England, but they certainly have laws, and the resultant social order provided thereby.

Perhaps, I ponder in post-debate glow, the gun nuts are truly the anarchist, not the punks into Social Distortion and Opinion Zero. The punks are raging pacifists, shouting and spitting about love and tolerance, finding a deeper order in the dissonant chord rising from the chaos they swirl within, while the rancher chewing hay watching the sun rise and set, seeing the cattle cross the range, is a mind over-complicated and precarious which shudders and creaks, projecting into the tenebrous future his leaden dream of Armageddon.

-- Kevin Teed

Father's Day

To the Editor,

The more I read about David Franklin's case (Dan Huff's "He Said/She Said," September 16), the more horrible it seems to become. Ask anyone at the University Library where Franklin worked on the information systems team for years, and I would bet that you would get nothing but absolutely sterling character references. I personally found him to be an extremely helpful, friendly, level-headed common-sense guy with a great sense of humor.

Of course, Jekyll-and-Hyde scenarios are always possible, but that determination belongs to impartial court-appointed parties, not to religious zealots and their allies in the state Legislature. What Mrs. Franklin has done is not only criminal in the legal sense, but in the moral sense as well.

Thank you for printing this tragic story.

-- Spencer W. Hunter

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