Oakville Senior High School educator says future bleak for district’s teachers

I recently learned that my department budget at Oakville Senior High School will be cut 15 percent next year and next year teachers in this district will not get any pay increase.

In fact, because the retirement deductions will go up, my net pay will go down — as it has most years I have taught in this district. So I wondered why I would want to come back next year.

This district spends less than the Missouri average per pupil — and Missouri is not known as an education state.

Granted, the funding mechanism for public schools in this country is undemocratic; the quality of your education is directly related to how much local residents pay in taxes. Patently unfair to children, but those are the rules. Many people who live in this district don’t send their children to public schools or they are retired and will not support additional funding for the public schools. I don’t understand that, but perhaps that is because I am not from this area.

Where I grew up, my parents sent their four kids to Catholic grade schools and two of us to private or Catholic high schools, but voted for tax increases because that is what you do for your community, for your neighbor’s children and for your country.

They believed in the best education for our most important resource.

Good Republicans, they believed that a quality education was an important part of democracy. Good Catholics, they believed in the importance of taking care of people.

Now retired, they continue to support tax increases for their local public schools.

Meanwhile, teachers in this district are among the lowest paid in the greater St. Louis area, which is why the Mehlville School District loses a lot of wonderful teachers to other school districts — to Kirkwood, $10,000 more per year; or Clayton, $15,000 more per year; or Webster or Lindbergh or Fox.

Yes, Fox, with slightly better pay, one’s own classroom, and an auditorium. I do not know of another suburban or urban school district without an auditorium.

New teachers look at us, then look elsewhere. We aren’t a first-choice employer.

At a union meeting, one veteran said she had taught and lived here 25 years and in that time received two decent raises — one last year, and one many years before. The so-called 6-percent raise last year — not every teacher received that, and one year does not address years of neglect — was a flash in the pan.

Whereas the national average wage and salary increase has been over 3.5 percent per year for the past four years, teachers in this district have not come close.

I have two graduate degrees, but my salary puts me in the lower middle class. I didn’t go into teaching to get rich. But I think I deserve to be treated — and to be paid — as a professional. Instead, people point at last year’s raise and say we are overpaid and underworked.

Where do we go from here? I think it’s up to the people who live here, who are stakeholders in this community, to say our teachers deserve better. It’s the responsibility of the Central Office and the Board of Education to help convince the citizens that salaries for teachers and support staff must increase. In the meantime, the future for teachers in this district is bleak. And our most important resource will suffer.

Ed Taylor

Ste. Genevieve