A Feb. 16 letter argues that teacher salaries are in an alternative reality that should learn to play by the salary rules of NFL players. In my view the writer has the importance of the two realities completely reversed. The absurd salaries of professional athletes could not exist if there were not a society affluent enough to support their entertainment industry. The foundation for a productive society is a service industry called education, which people don’t generally enter with any idea of becoming rich. And even the NFL has a player’s union to help make certain that the owners don’t fleece the players.
The Wisconsin Legislature just passed an anti-union measure regarding its teachers but did nothing against the Green Bay Packers players’ union. Unions per se are OK — but not for teachers.
The logic of the letter is flawed at many levels. NFL players are the best of the best in their field and their performance is easy to compare objectively. Our educational system must deal with multiple different abilities and socio-economic differences of students both in different locations and within the same classes. This makes comparative measurements intended to reflect teachers’ abilities very difficult.
Teachers must often deal with complaining parents who think their child’s ability is better than their performance scores on the one hand, and administrators who are pushed to enlarge classes and cut materials because of budget restraints on the other. Has the writer gone on site to classrooms or interviewed many teachers to come to his conclusions?
I think that on this issue we should start with the premise that teachers are the foundational profession most vital to our country’s future, ahead of doctors, lawyers, engineers and business owners. All these vocations and most others depend on having good teachers.