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What teachers want is not unreasonable

Date published: 6/14/2014

IN “OLIVER TWIST,” Charles Dickens’ scathing look at childhood poverty in an affluent society, the eponymous hero—an orphan who has been committed to a poorhouse—is overworked and starving. Stomach-gnawingly hungry. So one evening, after he has quickly slurped down his small daily bowl of repulsive gruel, he makes a simple request of the sadistic overseer, Bumble the Beadle:

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

Bumble and the other workhouse officials are aghast; how dare this insolent boy question his allotted portion! Why, the ingratitude! The selfishness! And after all they’d done for him!

To be a teacher in Stafford County these days is to feel a bit like poor, hungry Oliver. During each acrimonious budget season these past few years, the public school teachers of the ninth richest county in the United States have respectfully, but each year more hopelessly, made the same request of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors:

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

And so, even though public educators’ expectations are never grandiose—did anyone ever seriously think that teaching was a path to riches?—they’re given, year after year, the Bumble’s rush and left twisting in the wind. And their humble requests for even modest salary increases—even if just enough to keep up with the ever-ascending costs of living—are refused. Even as Stafford County itself continues to grow wealthier.

Belt tightening is acceptable when all belt-wearers are busy punching new holes; it is unacceptable when one’s neighbors seem able to loosen theirs and enjoy a much more comfortable standard of living than do their teachers.

For example, a large percentage of Stafford residents work for the government—the FBI and the Department of Defense are two of the largest employers—and these jobs offer far greater remuneration (and regular raises) to their employees than do Stafford County Public Schools. Why is it fair to drink liberally from the federal trough while begrudging those who dare to sip sparingly from the county one?

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