Newsday received about three dozen letters in response to Sunday's Page 1 news story, "Take a course, get a raise," about questionable classes teachers can take to boost their salaries. They broke down to about one-third of writers who liked the story and two-thirds who criticized it. Here's a sample of the response.
When the state's Taylor Law was passed in 1967, salaries in our public schools were abysmally low. Teachers fought to set up unions to negotiate with the school boards and found to our surprise that we were good at it. Each school district has its own negotiations and contracts. Whatever the individual unions won was agreed to by each district's board.
The teachers unions worked hard to gain as much as they could for their members. That's what unions are about. Do not blame the teachers for what they achieved in fair and open negotiations.
Walter K. Ramsey, Bayport
Editor's note: The writer is a retired teacher and negotiator.
To me it is unconscionable to spend money this way, and it will add to pension calculations. Courses related to curriculum or a teacher's specialty are fine.
Check out your school district policy. I would vote no on any budget or board member until the policy is changed.
James D. Tomlin, Baldwin
When one does the math, out of 2,000 courses reviewed over a five-year period, the reporters came up with 100 that were "of questionable academic value," or 5 percent of the total.
I wonder how many readers would suggest that Newsday stories were journalistically questionable in any given five-year period? My guess is the percentage would be a lot higher.
Editor's note: The writer is a retired superintendent of the East Rockaway school district.
It's about time that this issue was brought to the attention of the taxpayers, who pay for this largesse.
While teachers are mandated to earn a master's degree to obtain permanent certification, there is no reason to continue increasing salaries, at taxpayer expense, beyond that point. However, until the contract language specifies that salaries won't be increased beyond a master's degree, teachers will continue taking these courses.
Another issue is, why should taxpayers allow teachers to boost their salary and pension for each course they take? Changing this public policy to one where a school system reimburses a teacher for each appropriate course, rather than increasing base salary, makes much more sense.
Robert J. Bell, Deer Park
As a teacher in the Farmingdale schools for 30 years, I earned two master's degrees plus 42 additional graduate credits in the social sciences, for which I received additional compensation. I also earned a law degree from St. John's University, for which I did not receive any compensation from my employer.
Without question, all of these courses made me a better teacher.
Vincent Lyons, Hauppauge
Many thanks to Newsday for printing the article on the various classes Long Island teachers can take to boost their salaries, and ultimately their pensions.
Paying employees more for taking advanced classes within their discipline makes sense. One can see how the employee, the employer and the customers benefit from a better informed worker. Sadly, nobody benefits from some of these classes except the teachers.
It is maddening that expensive scams like this are negotiated behind closed doors without the knowledge of the taxpaying public. A sad consequence of this practice is that the integrity of this profession will be further eroded in the eyes of the public.
Michael J. Cisek, East Islip
As a teacher in a district that does not follow this practice, I feel falsely accused and judged. My district actually reflects the other end of the spectrum and scrutinizes every course.
If the research that you cite is so accurate and expansive, then you are sure to have the data on the districts that do not follow that practice. I would appreciate a follow-up article listing those school districts.
Melissa McCoy, East Patchogue
It has been my experience, as a New York City classroom teacher, that courses that qualify one for a raise needed approval. Every course I took beyond my masters (more than 40 credits) was approved by the principal.
A description of the course and where it was given had to be submitted before registering. This ensured that all course work for a salary increase was beneficial to the teacher and ultimately the students.
Perhaps Long Island school districts should boost their standards before they boost teachers' salaries.
Patricia Gill, Eastport
Many districts require teachers to fulfill between 15 and 20 hours of professional development each school year as part of our teaching contracts. These contractual obligations have no bearing on salary raises.
As for courses that can potentially raise a teacher's salary to the next level, in my district, nine of those credits must be graduate courses, many of which are costly, and six in-service credits, which also cost money.
We now live in an age in which people who've never set foot inside a classroom are making decisions about education, an age in which educating the whole child isn't a priority, an age in which teachers are excoriated rather than appreciated.
Now I ask you, is it so repugnant for a teacher these days to enroll in a course titled "Self-Esteem for Educators"?
Pam Uruburu, Massapequa
Editor's note: The writer works in the Northport-East Northport school district.
After earning a master's degree, taking 60 additional professional development classes and teaching for 12 years, my wife still doesn't make a six-figure income. If we as a society want teachers to make $30,000 a year again, what type of educators will be teaching our children? Do you think we are going to attract good teachers on Long Island?
A car salesman with a high-school diploma can make six figures in a year and have no college debt. Why is it so terrible for a teacher to make a good salary after investing $200,000 for an education?
Greg Connors, Mount Sinai
I traveled to the Bronx several times a week for years to earn my doctoral degree while working and raising a family. This required a great deal of effort, time and money. Did I receive a small salary increase when I received my degree? Yes. Do I deserve that increase? Yes I do. I learned a great deal that I apply to my work daily.
Michele Pakula, Merrick
Editor's note: The writer is a school psychologist.
When the smoke clears and a tiny faction of ineffective teachers are fired under all of these new rules and procedures, the public will have succeeded in getting rid of not only the worst teachers on the payroll, but the best teachers of the future as well. Why? Because the formative young pool of minds from which would have come tomorrow's dynamite teachers will have been convinced that the profession is not worth it.
Robert Gerver, Kings Park
Editor's note: The writer teaches math at North Shore High School.