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Our View: Teachers deserve respect, but time not right for raises

Published: Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 1:45 p.m. CDT

The message is impossible to miss – the teachers in Geneva showing up at school board meetings, wearing their matching bright green shirts in a show of unity as they seek a new contract that calls for salary increases.

But as we all fight through a difficult economic time, the teachers can’t really expect their friends and neighbors to show much support. Many teachers in other school districts – understanding the hardships that others are enduring – have taken pay freezes. And it simply is not the time to gather en masse and demand across-the-board raises.

We understand teachers have an important job, and they deserve respect. But it’s not disrespectful to ask for a temporary pay freeze when local residents – the very people responsible for funding the teachers’ salaries – have had to endure more difficult sacrifices. In a time of pay reduction and layoffs, many would welcome a pay freeze. Instead, many people say they are earning less than they were five years ago. Geneva teachers can’t say the same.

Those negotiating for Geneva teachers point to other districts’ salaries. But according to the 2011 state report cards, the difference isn’t huge. Geneva’s average salary of $72,395 is higher than St. Charles’ – $71,711, even if it’s less than Batavia’s $76,599. And while Geneva’s low end of $39,651 is among the lowest in the area, many recent college graduates would leap at such a salary.

Members of the teachers union and district negotiating teams are tasked with finding a solution. In finding those answers, the best result will be one that does not disrupt the education of the district’s students.

Because of the economic situation the district faces, the only real solution is to take a temporary pay freeze, such as teachers in other areas have done. In the future, this issue can be revisited and – at that time – a raise for teachers might be more appropriate.

We respect the important job teachers face. Students in the area receive a good education. Teachers have a difficult task, and they are valued members of the community. They don’t deserve the heavy criticism from those who mock their work schedules and minimize their contributions.

Good teachers are worthy of praise. But employee performance isn’t the only factor an employer must consider when doling out raises – the employer must have the ability to fund those raises.

Many of us have gone well above and beyond for our companies and have not been financially rewarded. It’s only reasonable that teachers understand the plight of their friends and neighbors and make a small sacrifice.

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