Teaching meets the Berkeley method
Your story “Teachers stick to hours” (Culture, et cetera, Thursday) caught my attention. The teachers argue their contract does not require them to work the extra hours it takes to grade papers resulting from homework assignments. The Berkeley Board of Education doesn’t have the money for raises, so the teachers respond by doing less, which only hurts the students.
I was curious to learn just how much or how little a California schoolteacher earns, so I visited the American Federation of Teachers’ Web site for its latest wage survey. The most recent data is from 2002-03 and ranks California as the highest in teacher salaries nationwide, at an average of $55,693 per year.
The school year covers fewer than 40 weeks when you consider summer vacation, winter break, spring break and federal holidays. That’s excluding “contracted” sick days and personal days. At a “contracted” 8 hours per day, teachers typically work a little more than 1,500 hours per school year, or about $36 an hour on average.
Naturally, the teacher’s union is blaming Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s unfair when you consider the financial condition former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis left California in. But one must remember that, politically speaking, most California public-school teachers are liberal Democrats. And liberal Democrats in California — to say nothing of the Berkeley liberal Democrats in this story — are quite liberal compared to the rest of us.
Maybe the issue here isn’t money; maybe it’s time. Berkeley teachers could simply be upset because they don’t get “snow days” like their counterparts here in the East.
RICHARD W. RESSLER
North Olmsted, Ohio
I just completed my income-tax return and was astonished to discover that for every dollar I paid in federal income tax, I paid 46 cents in Maryland state income tax (“Emergency money eyed by Democrats,” Maryland assembly 2005, Metropolitan, Feb. 3). This illustrates that while federal rates have declined recently, Maryland rates have been moving in the opposite direction.
In particular, the Montgomery County piggyback tax apparently increased from 2.95 percent in 2003 to 3.2 percent for 2004. This suggests that the tax-and-spend forces need to be combated at the local level as vigorously as they have been at the national level.
Associate Dean, College of Computer, Math & Physical Sciences
University of Maryland
Animal cruelty, violence against people
It is interesting to note that Dennis L. Rader, the suspected “BTK” serial killer, has worked as a dogcatcher. It has been documented that there is a connection between animal cruelty and violence directed at humans (“‘BTK’ suspect said to confess,” Nation, Feb. 28. ) Residents have recounted how they witnessed Mr. Rader publicly mistreating dogs, a warning sign that this man posed a danger to others, nonhuman as well as human.
According to FBI profilers, the American Psychiatric Association, law-enforcement officials and child-advocacy organizations, those who hurt animals rarely stop there: They may very well go on to commit acts of violence — such as child abuse, spousal abuse, rape and murder — against humans. In addition, directors and volunteers at shelters for battered women have noted the strong connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence. For instance, the murder of a companion animal can signal a woman that the abuse from her partner is becoming life-threatening.
One solution for breaking the cycle of violence would be for school systems across the country to implement a humane education program. By working at the root of this serious problem, we can prevent not only cruelty to animals, but also acts of violence and abuse directed at humans.
A fragile Iraqi democracy
Paul Greenberg too quickly applauds the sudden spread of democracy in the Middle East (“Freedom tide rising,” Commentary, Saturday). Research by political scientists Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi shows that democracies with annual per-capita incomes of less than $1,500 typically have life expectancies of a mere eight years. Per-capita income in Iraq is less than $1,000.
As Giovanni Sartori, F.A. Hayek, Fareed Zakaria and others have pointed out, stable democracy is the child, not the mother, of constitutional liberalism, widespread commerce and liberty.
DONALD J. BOUDREAUX
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Voting and tax folly
Although I agree with much that Bruce Fein writes in his commentary on dual citizenship (“Dual citizenship folly,” Commentary, Tuesday), I would like to point out a situation that I consider to be an exception: my own. I am an American citizen living in Denmark. I do not have Danish citizenship, nor do I intend to take it. I do vote, however. As a non-citizen, I am entitled to vote in local elections, although not national or European Union ones. I think the principle of “no taxation without representation” accords me this right.
I still vote in the United States, and do not feel that my voting in Denmark impairs my ability to be an informed voter back home.
I live in a country that takes 50 percent of my income, plus imposes a 25 percent sales tax — which, incidentally, is applied to services as well as government surcharges, including “green” carbon-dioxide fees.
You bet I exercise my right to control how my hard-earned money is spent.