- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2001

Editorial unjustly paints teachers as spoiled 'whiners

Concerning your March 28 editorial "Gilmore does it again," you should be aware of the fact that teachers are contracted to work a specific number of days per year, 193 for most. A teachers salary covers those 193 days and nothing more. If a teacher chooses, that amount can be spread over 12 months; otherwise, the teacher is paid during the months school is in session.
To make a statement that "ost workers who enjoy a fully paid summer vacation with no work would be pretty happy with a 3.5 percent to 3.7 raise on top of that" is not accurate. The payment teachers receive between July and August (if they select the 12-month payment option) was earned during the school year.
During the summer, most teachers spend their "vacation" developing curriculum; learning new software; working with the 12-month school staff in various ways, such as decorating classrooms, overseeing the installation of equipment and furniture, developing schedules, and performing many other activities for which they receive no pay.
Teachers dont enjoy a fully paid summer vacation. To make such a statement, which you should know is not true, is for the sole purpose of making teachers look like whiners.

Great Falls, Va.In your March 28 editorial "Gilmore does it again," you take an uninformed swipe at Fairfax County teachers when you suggest that they are spoiled by the system, saying that "ost workers who enjoy a fully paid summer vacation with no work would be pretty happy with a 3.5 percent to 3.7 raise on top of that." I am married to a teacher, and I spent 30 years in the military thanking my lucky stars that I wasnt one also.
Like most of her counterparts in elementary education, she leaves home around 7 a.m. and returns home close to 8 p.m. She has 45 minutes of driving time and 15 minutes to eat lunch. During many days of the week, she has staff meetings, counseling sessions and parent consultations from 7:30 a.m. until student arrival at 8:45. As often as not, these duties resume after students depart at 4 p.m. There are no break times during the day. Her school administration load, classroom cleanup, preparation and planning continue well after 7 p.m., and she spends many nights at home grading until 10. Every night, 5 or 6 pounds of her 26 first-graders papers, drawings, tests and report cards are spread out over our bed. Our lives center not around trips to see the fall leaves turn in Vermont or to throw our coins in the fountains of Rome, as is typical for most people our age. Rather, our lives center on: how to ensure that an overachieving 6-year-old gets the increased course work she needs; how to work with the bureaucracies of Child Protective Services and Social Services (who often wont talk to each other) to get help for a child whose parents cant even get her to school half the time; how to manage a class that is too large for its age group, in which it is nearly impossible to manage the half-dozen children who can disrupt the learning process for the other 20 and which also may include learning-disabled children who have difficulty focusing their attention.
The financial limitations that make large classes necessary also mean that teachers cannot have aides. Classes can never go unsupervised. At noon, a container of wolfed-down yogurt suffices for lunch, and then it's back to being onstage for the toughest audience in the world.
As for a "paid summer vacation" where did you get that idea? Any teacher who receives a county check between July and August has deferred pay during the teaching year. Otherwise, they receive nothing. And what about the meetings, planning, conferences and required classes during that "vacation" time? On a lark, I counted up the "regular" and "unpaid" hours my wife puts in. Rather than the 1,860 work hours most businesses project for their employees, this teacher puts in more than 2,800 hours even accounting for "summer vacation." That means she earns less than $15 per hour for the privilege of teaching your children.
Teachers dont do what they do because of compensation or benefits. My wife could be paid much more for much less. She loves and is in turn loved by your children. Its time that we appreciate what she, and thousands like her, are doing for us.

U.S. Air Force (retired)
Fairfax Station

Public needs more news 'unfit to print

Your March 27 editorial "Unfit to print," about the news medias failure to pick up on the rape and murder of Jesse Dirkhising, signifies why The Washington Times, Fox News Channel and the Internet have the liberal establishment media in such a hissy fit: They can no longer keep news from getting to the public. The media used to have the power to determine "all the news thats fit to print." That was when six or seven liberal outlets could determine which stories got attention and developed "legs" and, just as important, which stories had no national angle and would die quietly. Though the liberal media establishment insisted that it was unbiased, consumers knew the truth. It became clear that things were changing when, thanks to Internet journalist Matt Drudge, the establishment media could not suppress the Monica Lewinsky story. Fox News came on the scene, and CBS and CNN went into decline. The Washington Times ensures that the print establishment can no longer drown out the news thats not "fit to print" but that we need anyway. Given a choice, people will vote with their remote and their subscriptions. At least now we have the choice.

Paris, Texas

Engaging China should be based on reality, not naivete

It would be ideal if the resolution of the Taiwan issue were "peacefully negotiated and mutually acceptable," as Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Craig Thomas hope for in their Commentary column ("Caution or urgency in arms for Taiwan?" March 28) But I am puzzled how these distinguished statesmen can totally misread the following:

Chinas robust and determined missile buildup aims at coercing Taiwan into accepting Beijings terms of unification ("peaceful surrender"). Doesnt this violate the principle of a "peacefully negotiated and mutually acceptable" resolution of China-Taiwan differences?

The United States repeatedly has urged China to open a dialogue with Taiwan and cautioned that Chinas continued military buildup will necessitate a U.S. response (to enhance Taiwans self-defense). China has ignored both. On March 27, The Washington Times reported fresh additions of Chinese missiles on the eve of discussions to sell arms to Taiwan ("China beefs up missile stocks as U.S. considers Taiwan arms"). If words have exhausted their effectiveness, shouldnt the United States try actions?

Chinese President Jiang Zemin, in a recent interview with The Washington Post, flatly rejected confederation or federation with Taiwan. How credible is his "anything can be discussed" unification offer?

Engaging China is important, but it should be based on reality, not naivete.


Associate professor of political science

University of Richmond


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