Blaming The Messenger

The answer of the day for education is to abolish labor unions which support teachers in the public schools so that teaching as an occupation can support not only a family but support a retired teacher as well. At present our governor in Oregon–Gov. Kitzhaber–is doing his very best to make teaching an occupation of last resort. He wants to use pension funds to fund the general budget even though during the last two years the retirement fund has returned about 1.5 and 2.8 billion dollars to the state of Oregon. He is calling the legislature back into a special session in order to cut the income of current retirees and future retirees even more than he did in the regular legislative session. Gov. Kitzhaber is supposedly a democrat, but he operates more like the infamous Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin who was struck by a similar bolt of lightning in going after pension funds of all labor unions. One wonders if he has been paid off by one of ALEC’s billionaires such as the infamous Koch brothers. Some of our state representatives and state senators from the Republican party have been. If you want to check for yourself, all you have to do is look up ALEC for your own state. I have done this for the State of Oregon and found that most of the senators and representatives who are members of ALEC are republicans. In the State of Oregon we have many democratic senators and legislators who are democratic in name only because for the most part they fly under the political radar. Gov. Kitzhaber, in his non-governor role, is a medical doctor but he loves politics much more than doctoring. He will also draw a pension when he retires for his 12 years as Governor of the State of Oregon. He may run for another term and very likely has spent time in the Legislature as well.

All public employees for state and local governments are members of the Public Employees Retirement System. This includes water districts, fire districts, state and local police, firemen, judges, college and university employees and many more. The largest sector used to be public school employees but at present there are no teachers on the PERS board. One of the biggest benefactors was the Coach and Athletic Director of the University of Oregon. When no one was paying attention, his salary included much more than was in his contract as coach and athletic director. He left the state with an income of about $45,000 a month or $540,000 per year. He has been gone from Oregon for several years and now works for some sports organization drawing an additional salary. His monthly salary is about equal to my yearly salary retirement salary, and under current law his salary is taxable in the state where he now resides and he gets an annual increase from the PERS in Oregon.

One of the paradoxes of this whole problem with pensions is that many of the recipients never bargain for their retirement benefits. Principals, Superintendents, and other like members of the management are on the other side of salary negotiations during bargaining. But as soon as the bargaining is completed the administrators get a nice increase in their salaries based upon the teachers’ salaries. At the State Universities level, there is no collective bargaining. If one is even suspected of trying to bargain, if that person does not have tenure, their contract will not be renewed. I spent three years as an administrator and got a double increase each year until I got at the top of the salary schedule. Judges, clerks, and many others who get PERS benefits never bargain for their salaries. College and University professors are supposedly paid on their ability to write, publish, get grants for research, and sometimes teach, but the whole system defies all logic. A professor may simultaneously teach, write, research, and administer, so many have no incentive to involve themselves in collective bargaining.

A final note on my view of the teaching profession is I really enjoyed teaching and had success in that role. I never liked administrative work because I sat for hours listening to administrators spout total nonsense. I thought many times of the outfielder for the Yankees who got so bored he would stand on his head, interacting with the fans in the stands, but I took the easy way out and did something I enjoyed and went back to teaching. Our politicians need to be contacted and told forcefully to quit trying to balance their bloated budgets on the backs of members of PERS, and do something meaningful such as working for a living. Teachers and other employees who work for a living are the messengers of our civilization, so stop Blaming the Messengers and robbing them of their retirement incomes.