Pay…or lack thereof
Posted on May 18, 2018
Teacher pay is a big issue in Colorado and the Bennett household. As a wealthy and booming state, the fact that we are 46th in school funding is a disgrace. Following teachers in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma and elsewhere, my wife and her fellow teachers staged walkouts a few weeks ago. Let me be VERY clear, teachers need to be paid more and we must adequately fund education.
Yet, where are the voices of the rest of the helping professionals who make sustainably less than teachers with worst benefits? For the complexity and stress inherent to the work of helping, our pay is downright shameful. While it is easy to shrug off that our pay is a result of our communities not valuing the poor, mentally ill, disabled, and struggling in our community, does our silence do a disservice to ourselves and those we serve?
Teachers in Colorado walked out primarily to draw attention to our offensive approach to educational funding and secondarily for their own salaries. Many of these efforts, unfortunately not yet in Colorado, forced legislators to act to bring funding and wages up to adequate, if not ideal, levels. At least some states fund education and teacher salaries adequately. Is there anyone who works with the homeless or in-home healthcare, public health, child welfare, disabilities, or psychiatric inpatient care who is appropriately compensated for their work?
I admit, walking out of many of our jobs would carry potentially dangerous consequences for those we serve, our organizations (which are rarely to blame for what they can pay), and our communities, but are these consequences anymore devastating than the long-term impact that low wages, high turnover, and underfunding programming is having on those needing help? If a walkout would do harm, who is doing the harm? I would argue the blame lies firmly on those in positions of policy-making power or our communities that undervalue our work, clients, and patients. The example of teachers challenges us, whether we walk out or take another form of action, to find our collective voice and take to the streets demanding action and social justice concerning funding and salaries.
People are activated right now! Those who never took to the streets in protest are now comfortable publicly standing up for their beliefs. I can not think of a better time to organize and fight, first for those we serve and second for our ability to earn a comfortable living following our passion for helping those in need.