This is a letter I sent to my local paper yesterday that I thought I would share:
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to Mr. Monchinski’s letter asserting that Bedford Central teachers are not overpaid. A couple of years ago, I did something I wouldn’t wish on anyone: I read through the entire 115-page teachers union contract. I wanted to understand why my property taxes were so extraordinarily high relative to the rest of the country. I found out.
Allow me to lay out the facts, and then you can decide for yourself. For starters, it’s not difficult to make six figures a year – simply hanging around will get you the necessary raises, which come every six months, regardless of performance. Teachers are also only contractually required to work only 181 days a year, versus about 240 for the rest of us. But they also get 15 sick days, four personal days, and five bereavement days. Unused sick days go into a “bank” which pays out on retirement.
There is extra pay for everything imaginable. Coaching sports, monitoring recess, helping with plays, etc. (all the things private school teachers are expected to do as a normal part of their jobs). My personal favorite: $1,339 for monitoring the juggling club.
The big enchilada, though, is retirement. Teachers get 70% of their peak base for life, which typically works out to about $85,000 a year (not taxed by the state, incidentally). Retirees also get excellent family health benefits, worth at least another 16k a year. To get all this, they are only required to cover 15% of their health.
Live another 25 years, and that’s a cool $2.5 million. They have an excellent chance of living that long, too, because they get to retire at age 57, Discounted at 4%, the package is worth a cool $1.6 million. It’s the same as being handed a $1.6 million fully-funded IRA on the day you retire, courtesy of the taxpayers.
These are the facts. They are purposefully buried in a complicated contract that few ever read. Mr. Monchinski’s primary argument seems to be that there are teachers in other New York District paid even more than here. Notice he says nothing of, say, nearby Connecticut where teachers – and taxes – are significantly lower.
We were trained for decades to think that teachers were underpaid, largely because they were. That time has passed.