If you asked most teachers why they went into education, chances are the words “because the money is good” will not come out of their mouth. In fact, most people involved in the day-to-day operations of a school will probably not list money as their number one motivation.
However, Governor Rick Snyder seems to believe that teachers and staff in Highland Park don’t deserve to get a paycheck at all.
The Highland Park School Board voted Thursday to waive their right to appeal an emergency financial manager when it became clear that they would not be able to make their Friday payroll of $220,000. They did so in the face this and an $11.3 million budget deficit. The district appealed the initial January appointment of Jack Martin after the discovery that it was in violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
Gov. Snyder in return allowed an appropriation of $4,000 per student to allow all students to continue to attend their current school. The money would follow the student out of the school district if they decided to transfer mid-year. None of this money was used to shore up the payroll to make sure that teachers could pay their bills.
This latest move is a clear attempt to blackmail Highland Park School District into accepting an emergency financial manager, is a clear travesty of justice in punishing teachers for a situation they did not create and by forces them to continue to work without being paid for services rendered. (This is also known as slavery.)
Holding teachers’ pay hostage as leverage to force the school board into a situation they did not want is criminal at best. Appointing an emergency financial manager who seems bent on disenfranchising local voters by usurping all school board power and disincorporating the school district borders on fascism.
Highland Park teachers did nothing to rack up the $11.3 million in deficit the district has accrued. Yet Gov. Snyder and Michigan Legislature have chosen to take years of corruption and abuse out on educators who have no control over the management of district funds. They also seem expect teachers to take not getting paid for their work in stride and continue to work with the hope that their wages will be reimbursed.
Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a good old-fashioned case of slavery. When someone is legally bound to show up to work every day and do not get paid for it, that equals involuntary servitude. Last time I checked, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits that.
We cannot expect teachers to deliver a quality education to students if they have to worry about whether they can make their next mortgage payment, if they will be able to pay the light bill, or whether they will be able to fill up their gas tanks to even report to work because they might not have a paycheck.
If they do lose their house, or get their lights turned off, or have their car repossessed, they will be branded as a lazy deadbeat. If they join the Occupy Movement to protest their treatment, they will be told to get a job. The problem is that they have a job that refuses to give them a paycheck.
Something must be done to end this treatment of teachers and staff in Highland Park and other school districts who cannot make payroll. School districts and even the state government should be held accountable at the national level for their failure to provide just compensation for services rendered. If it becomes necessary, the government should give temporary emergency aid with the specific provision that it be used to pay teachers on time.
If our state wants to ensure the success of our children, we must assure that those who educate them are compensated for their services at a bare minimum. Ultimately, steps should be taken to ensure that all classrooms in this country are prepared to educate students for the technologically driven jobs that many politicians are promising to bring.
Many educators are not driven by the paycheck their job provides, but for the love of the career that they have chosen. It is not out line for them to expect some nature of compensation for their services. Studies have proven that students who come from low-income homes have difficulty performing in school. If a teacher comes from a low or even no-income home despite all the work he or she puts in, what will happen to their performance?