--by Mike Adams
My wife, a full time employee of our local school district, earns nearly 13,000 dollars a year. Our child care cost is $5400 a year for our three year old son, whom my sister takes care of for a lesser cost than other day care arrangements. This means my wife brings home $7600 a year after covering a basic and necessary expenses.
I have to be honest; this makes me feel rather angry. I can’t understand why an instructional assistant is only worth $13,000 a year. In a country where we profess to highly value our next generation; in this country with its federal mandate named, ‘No Child Left Behind,’ it seems that somehow, we could provide enough pay for child care professionals, for teachers and teachers’ assistants that they, the people who we entrust with our children’s futures aren’t left behind. I wholeheartedly disagree with any characterization of the teacher’s union as a “special interest group” at least in terms similar to the tobacco lobby being a special interest group. Shouldn’t all Americans take a particular interest in the quality our children’s educations and the livelihood of those who care for our next generation. Our children are our future, they will care for of us when we get older, they will run the government when we retire and on a personal level, they are our hopes and our dreams, they are our greatest investments. So I ask, why not loosen the purse strings and pay a reasonable wage to those with whom we entrust our kids?
I have heard some conservatives respond that, really, we want teachers who love teaching so much that they would teach even if they weren’t getting paid at all. That argument sounds good on the surface…I mean, really, I want my kids to be taught by someone who is passionate about and loves teaching, but seriously, no one should need to love teaching so much that they are willing to live in poverty or near poverty and neglect their own children’s financial needs in order to work in the school system.
Think about it, what if we decided that we really only want CEO’s who love that line of work so much that they would do it for free. What about lawyers or cosmetic surgeons or accountants, shouldn’t we find people who will do those tasks for free too?
Seriously though, let’s look at qualifications and pay; a teacher must earn a four year degree and then a teaching credential. Additionally, they have annual education requirements, which they are expected to pay from their own income. By necessity, teachers are well educated with five or six years in college before they qualify to lead a classroom. Why is their work so un-valued in our society that after completing all of that higher education, a teacher starts out earning only $32,000 per year?
I can’t understand why, an entry level computer technician, with no college degree, is able to earn more money than a teacher with five or six years of college. I worry that our values are mixed up, that our vision is blurry and that we have lost sight of some key American values.
In the 2008 Presidential race, there was much talk about sexism. It was used in the Democratic primaries and again in the general election. I’m not sure whether sexism played a greater role than did racism in the 2008 election year, however, I can promise you that every day across this country sexism plays a role in the lives of everyday Americans.
Consider the fact that in general, a single mother is considered to be a tragedy, or in Rush Limbaugh’s world, a slacker. However, a single father is something of a hero. We have a double standard for what kind of role women are expected to take with their children versus what is expected of men.
Women are expected to be nurturing, loving and in general caring providers for their children; they cook, clean and take care of the soccer schedule. They are expected to put their careers on hold and stay home for the important work of parenting. By contrast, men go to work and are expected to earn enough money to support the family. Men are expected to work late, attend meetings or even get a second job if necessary. If a child has to stay home sick, a mother is almost always the one to take sick leave or miss a work day. In my family, when we run out of sick days, it is usually my wife who stays home because her work for the schools pays so much less than my work.
Often, I wonder if this isn’t because of the nature of my wife’s work. Because she takes care of children for a living and I take care of more pressing issues, like some one’s Microsoft Word Program won’t start or they really want flash installed on their computer. I believe that our society has relegated work, which is historically considered “women’s work” to a lower pay scale. Jobs like Daycare Provider, school teachers, Teacher’s Aids, house cleaners. None of them pays particularly well, all of them are considered by and large to be women’s jobs.
It seems that in our society, we pretend to value our children above all else, but in reality, we won’t pay a good wage to those people who we entrust with our children’s safety and future, as a country, we spend more money building prisons than we do building schools. Somewhere deep inside our collective unconscious, we still seem to believe that those tasks are a woman’s tasks…a stay at home mother’s tasks…unpaid and economically un-valuable tasks. The question is when will we realize that in fact, providing care and education for the next generation is invaluable work worthy of good pay and worthy of our deepest respect.