(Ed.'s note: The following letter was sent to the BOE and reprinted here at the writer's request.)
Now that it is time to renegotiate the teachers' contract, I'd like to make a point about teachers' salaries and work schedules.
The Labor Department recently released statistics indicating that the average American worked 2,000 hours in the year 2000. That amounts to 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year. The common American business practice of allowing employees only two to three weeks of vacation per year is basically uncivilized, so I won't compare teachers to that norm. Good employers allow four weeks of vacation per year in exchange for 48 weeks of work. Teachers are given nine weeks of summer vacation, a one week winter recess, a one week spring recess and five days of miscellaneous holidays that are generally uncommon in the private sector for a total of 12 weeks. The civilized 48 week work schedule is 20 percent more than a teacher's 40 week work schedule. The last time I heard, the median salary for Port's teachers was about $74,000 per year. Based on their 40 week work schedule, the median teacher's salary is equivalent to an annual salary of $89,000. Many people would gladly take this $15,000 salary cut in exchange for the change in lifestyle.
Speaking of lifestyle, let's consider commuting. Most of the better-paying jobs in this region are in the city. Commuting to the city from Port generally takes 10 hours more time per week than commuting to Port from locations in northern Nassau. Add to this the additional cost of commuting. A local job in Port is worth at least a $10,000 salary differential, if not double or triple that for the quality of life factor. Adding that $10,000 to $89,000 brings the equivalent for Port's median teacher's salary up to a healthy $99,000. Senior teachers go into the respectable six-figure range.
Teaching is a good job. It is a nice and respectable job. Some find it to be an emotionally rewarding job. We may want to continue giving teachers this generous work schedule so that our children don't have to work with the same type of stressed-out individuals that adults have to work with. Their schedule is a benefit that should be taken into consideration when negotiating salaries.
Teachers in the NYC school system may be underpaid, but teachers in the Port Washington School system are well paid. It is not difficult for Port to recruit teachers. There is no reason to give them salary increases beyond a modest cost of living increase. If anything, we should be talking about extending the school year.
Robert T. Schill