Monday, April 16, 2012

Thank You, Taxpayers, and You're Welcome

Professional educator Kevin Diece, from nearby Fort Atkinson, WI, steps in as guest blogger this week. The following posting is an adaptation of Diece’s Letter to the Editor published in April of 2011 in the Daily Jefferson County Union.

As a Tax Day tribute, thank you taxpayers for funding public education. Likewise, you’re welcome for the important and professional service provided our communities by professional educators across Wisconsin.
Sadly, the taxpayer-teacher symbiosis is muddied by conservative think tanks continually misleading many taxpayers to believe that professional teachers make too much.

The propaganda promoting this falsehood compares teacher salaries to those who do not have the same level of education attainment (degrees) that teachers do. My salary is approximately $55,000. To earn that salary, I have taught 13 years, obtained a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and 30 additional graduate credits. When comparing my salary to others, please take some time to research those professions/careers that have the equivalent degrees as I do.

Comprehensive research shows quite clearly that the pay of professional educators (and other public employee professionals) is not excessive. Some key findings from a study Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation over 20 Years found:

·         Jobs in the public sector typically require more education than private sector positions. State and local employees are twice as likely to hold a college degree or higher as compared to private sector employees. Only 23 percent of private sector employees have completed college, as compared to about 48 percent in the public sector.
·         Wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector employees with comparable earnings determinants, such as education and work experience.  State workers typically earn 11 percent less and local workers 12 percent less.
·         During the last 15 years, the pay gap has grown: earnings for state and local workers have generally declined relative to comparable private sector employees.
·         Even after accounting for the value of retirement, health care, and other benefits, state and local employees still earn less than their private sector counterparts do. On average, total compensation is 6.8 percent lower for state employees and 7.4 percent lower for local employees than for comparable private sector employees.

Regardless of the pay discrepancy, teachers knew what they were getting into regarding compensation. We knew we would not get rich, but that we would be offered a benefit package that would offset our salary. Our Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), considered a model pension system by financial experts, is a form of deferred compensation bargained for instead of taking salary increases. Teachers also have negotiated to pay less of a percentage of our insurance premiums as a tradeoff for lower salary increases.

Deceptively, Governor Walker likes to refer to our deferred compensation (benefits) as entitlements. This brings up a good segue into the reality of who pays whose salary. Last year alone, I paid for the salaries of the following local employees: the local hardwood floor guy, everyone at Sentry, Pick ‘n Save, Jimmy John’s, Subway, Ace Hardware, Fort Atkinson Park and Recreation Department, School District of Fort Atkinson, Madison Area Technical College, Blackhawk Fitness, Langer’s Trim and Style, Salamone’s, BP, Powers Tire and Auto Service, Daily Jefferson County Union, U.S. Cellular, and the list goes on and on. These are just a fraction of the local businesses/employees I support.

Looking across the state of Wisconsin, we could add Charter Communications, We Energies, Wells Fargo, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Brewers, and again the list goes on and on.

You see, we all "scratch each other’s backs." When I go to the grocery store and pay for my goods, I help pay the salaries of the employees that work there. With my family losing $7000 to $8,000 of disposable income this year due to Gov. Walker’s budget-repair bill, I am not spending that money at these local businesses. What do you suppose my cut in pay will eventually do to all of the employees that work at these local businesses?

So, for all of the taxpayers in my local community, I thank you for paying my salary. On the flipside, you’re welcome, since I pay your salary, too.

I encourage every taxpayer to keep an itemized list of how you spend your money in the next year. After doing this, set those numbers next to your tax bill and compare all of the numbers. I think you would be surprised how those numbers compare to what you pay for taxes in regards to the local school district portion. The money you spend on education seems like such a large amount simply because it is summarized as a one-dollar value on your property tax bill. If you spread that dollar amount out like your other expenses, it would not seem like so much. Perhaps the State of Wisconsin needs to list everything tax dollars pay for and the corresponding amount we pay for these services on our property tax bill.

As a final Tax Day thought, it is important to remind Wisconsin taxpayers that the attempts to link public educators and employees to the state’s budget problems is just a ruse. Do you remember when teachers and public employees crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401K’s, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no additional taxes?

Yeah, me neither. 

1 comment:

  1. Just like a teacher. Layout a well reasoned argument with facts, evidence and references. Please don't confuse me with the truth, my head hurts. Must be time to listen to Rush.