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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Trying to Accept That This Bill Shall Pass Too

I have had more opportunities to learn about the difficulty of moving on this past year than I had ever expected. The death of my wife, the death of my father, and now the attempted assassination of my profession individually have caused a crushing grief; all together, they make life very grim. Whether this bill passes or not, education in Wisconsin has changed forever; my life, and the lives of many people I know, will have also changed forever.

To be completely clear, I think that this bill should not be passed. However, I am realistic enough and have a great enough respect for the legislative process to recognize that this bill will likely pass without many changes to it. So, I have to start trying to understand how this will change my life.
The first thing to cope with is the unknown. We are all left with questions about work environment, income, and job security. I have heard rumors that Governor Walker's budget proposal for the next two years will contain even more drastic cuts in funding to education. We will have even more layoffs and even less income. I have found myself wondering: “How will I survive?”

So, while the protests are really about the bigger issue of workers' rights, all teachers in the state will have significantly less income in the very near future. I will share how this will affect me personally. My total salary package is $50,320.08. My gross income is $32,495.04. My take home pay is $24,465.36. With a 10% loss that take home pay becomes $21,215.86. That $3,000 loss will cause gigantic changes to my life. I also know that other teachers (and other public workers) will be hit even harder. People have made long term plans based on their salary. When they are no longer receiving that salary, they will lose homes, cars, and any sense of financial security.

The decision to become a teacher is complex and rarely made because of the salary. On the other hand, people definitely factor into that decision a desire to work in a professional environment that provides benefits and retirement that guarantee their families will be taken care of. Being a teacher also involves having input into the best way to achieve the goals of education. A lose of this professional voice is likely if this bill passes. The job of teaching becomes much more political and complicated. All that once provided security has now come into question.

I wish I had some great answer to all of this uncertainty. All I have to offer right now is something my brother-in-law said: “Anyone good at their job will always find work.” This is probably true. But even the potential changes suggested by this bit of encouragement are intimidating. Perhaps the only bit of wisdom I have to hold onto is: “This too shall pass.”

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