Points of Comparison


New from UTR:

Comparative analyses are always a prone to underinterpretation, but they do offer a good starting point for discussion.

It seems that by "comparable districts" UTR means large Bay Area districts. All these districts are local but why, say, Berkeley's missing I'm not sure. Only one standard high school? I don't know. But even if every Bay Area district were included, the general point of this graph would remain valid. Viz, at the WCCUSD we do not rake in the big bucks.

I find it interesting that Oakland is dead last. It makes me wonder if cities in contention for the Murder Capital feel they shouldn't have to pay teachers as much as other cities.

As if that makes sense.

And finally, just FYI:

Dr. Harter gives a strong vibe that reads "I don't much care if slashed wages/benefits result in a mass teacher exodus." And if his plan passes, I will have to quit. But I'm not just an employee.

I'm a vested member of the community. My son started kindergarten this year at one of the area's premiere elementary schools. And I don't want to see his school's staff gutted by people moving to other districts in order to feed and heal their children.

I'm not just an employee.

I live here.


  1. I would probably quit too, if I were in your situation. These cuts are outrageous and intolerable. They make WCCUSD even less appealing, since many of the good teachers will quit due to these cuts.

    About your last point ("I live here") - it's interesting to think about what it means to live in a particular place. Do we have a right to live wherever we choose? Suppose I decide I want to live in Manhattan, or Malibu. Do I have the right to demand that somehow someone provide me housing in Malibu, because I'm a human being who deserves a decent roof over my head? Probably not.

    This is a painfully personal subject for me, as most of the jobs in my industry are in Silicon Valley, and if I want my kids to go to good schools in that area, I will have to live in neighborhoods that require at least $200k/year income. Since my wife is at home with our children, I don't see how that's possible. So - how angry am I justified in being about this situation? Am I not a person too?

    Sad as it is, I don't believe any of us has the right to live where we please. Competition for living space in safe neighborhoods with good schools, good jobs, and good weather makes certain places more desirable than others. I think I'm just going to move out of the Bay Area when I graduate, because the competition for living space here is just crazy.

    Good luck to you as you navigate this infuriating situation.

  2. Ugh, why do we Americans not take care of our teachers? It makes me insane.

  3. I'm sorry.

    And: move to Minnesota and we can hang out. :-)

  4. .

    In my view, if a community desires the services of a profession, they should offer payment suitable to be part of the community. And there are school districts in the Bay that recognize that. Pleasonton, for instance, has a comparable cost of living to here but offers wages double what I'm paid. Is it a coincidence that there schools score better on the legally recognized rubrics? Maybe. There are certainly other valid explanations, but a school district that can't maintain an institutional continuance is at a huge disadvantage.

    And a notable thing about teaching is that it is an industry represented in every community. Every community that has kids anyway. So no teacher needs to commute just in order to get a job. I can get a job wherever I decide to live. And likely I will decide to live in a community that values me enough to pay me to be part of the community.

    I want to be invested in the same system that serves my children. And I want my children to be served by a district that has all the advantages inherent to vested teachers.

  5. There are many important industries that are represented in every community and provide vital services to every community, but are not paid enough to live in the communities they serve. For example, every community needs a grocery store - but the vast majority of grocery store employees make far less than teachers. I worked at Burger King for a summer, while living in affluent Yorba Linda - I was paid the exact same minimum wage that I would have been paid anywhere else. My aunt works as a Parks & Rec director - she doesn't complain about her job, but she can't afford either a house or a car - and she's over 45 years old.

    So it's a pretty widespread problem: many communities desire services from many industries, but can't afford to pay those providing those services enough to live close to their work. The Bay Area is pathologically expensive. None of us, regardless of profession, deserve to live here. If the equations don't work out, we have to leave.

    It sucks for all of us: migrant farm workers, computer scientists, janitors, mechanical engineers - it doesn't matter what our professions are. We all have to work out these financial equations the best we can. None of us like moving or commuting, but we do it because we have to make hard choices given the state of reality.

    I wish teachers were paid more as well. And I think WCCUSD is mismanaging its teachers, which will result in continued decline for the district. This is a tragedy for the people in WCCUSD.

    But teachers are people too, and are subject to the same economics as the rest of us mere mortals. None of us gets a free pass to live wherever he or she wants.

  6. .

    Well. Obviously. But I hope we don't choose to be satisfied by that.

  7. .

    I've been thinking about your points all day, RC, and in the end, I don't think I can agree with you. On the one hand, I hope I'm not so prideful as to argue that I am a better or more important person than the grocery checker. On the other hand, that's a good job for a teenager. I'm a professional.

    And I'm not asking for a house on the hill with a view. I would just like to stay where I am in a 1200 square foot, aging home in a nice neighborhood. For my community, I'm middle class. I don't have a view of the Bridge, but neither am I relegated to the slums.

    And I will still argue that teachers are an important part of the community. Some teachers teach the grandchildren of their early students. Surely that has value.

    Lady Steed grew up in a more costly community that ours and she always found it unsettling that nearly none of her teachers were part of the fabric. They were hired guns, swooping in from miles away to do a job and ride away again. Always looking for a job closer to home. That's not good for the kids.

    I know I can't come off as an unbiased observer, but I think most people will agree that our kids matter and that outside of parents themselves (and daycare, of course), we trust teachers to influence them for good.

    I have no problem with the six-figure wages firefighters and cops receive. They deserve it.

    I don't expect as much as they receive, but does teaching matter?

    As an aside, although I support Prop 13 in most respects, there's no question it's a primary cause for California education going down the crapper. Thirty years ago, teachers in this district could buy houses with a view --- only halfway up the hill, but high enough. All I want is enough to feed my kids and to live without a view while paying 20% the average rent. It's really hard for me to accept that I'm being at all unreasonable.

    I know that's not what you're saying, but having worked as a teacher and as a reporter and having just been around the block a couple times, I do know that most Americans want their kids to have an excellent education. They just don't want to pay for it.

    Your point about the competition for housing is good. And lots of communities have tried various things.

    A city in Utah offered to pay a sizable percentage of a mortgage (I think it was half) to get teachers to move in and take an embarrassingly low wage. A couple ritzy communities have built Cadburyesque areas to get teachers. San Jose was considering doing something similar to get janitors, I remember. (Do you know how that turned out?) So yeah --- it's not just teachers. And someday when we have to clean our own corporate bathrooms because no one's answering the ad maybe we'll rethink things a little.

    I'm not looking to get ahead here --- just stay afloat. Getting rich isn't a goal of mine. And if it comes down to staying here in an area we love, or moving somewhere that will pay us enough to survive, we'll take the latter. No question.

    But what about all the kids we teachers leave behind?

    It kind of reminds me of urban blight. Only schools (kids) instead of neighborhoods (also kids).

    It's interesting to observe how seeing kids get yanked around seems to be changing my politics....

    Anyway. It's late. I hope I'm still coming off civil.

    Mostly, I think this is an important conversation that communities need to have. As long as it's just bickering between teachers and administration, the biggest stakeholders aren't getting heard.