Keep your eyes on the prize my father always said.
I was at my nephew’s wedding over Labor Day weekend up in New Hampshire near Dartmouth where both of my nephews went to school. That was odd because both the bride and groom came from the Midwest.
At the wedding I got to meet a lot of my sister’s friends from where she used to work. I faced this meeting with some trepidation.
My sister, you see, was a school nurse and finally the school nurse administrator for the city of Madison, Wisconsin. She is a long- standing union member and supporter.
You may remember Madison, Wisconsin teachers from earlier this year, the angry
protesting teachers who had their union stripped away, which led to the
attempted recall of Gov. Walker. Teacher unions and what teacher’s pay is can be
a very sore subject with many of them.
My sister, knowing many of my feelings from my writings here in town, made
sure not to seat us near any of these teachers. She need not have worried. I think
what was done to those teachers in Wisconsin was terrible.
When I spoke to those teachers, who after 30-35 years were making about $60,000 a year, with a pension that was less generous than ours, I told those teachers what Barrington teachers make and they were shocked!
Barrington teachers, I told them, make much more. I told them that 80% of our
teachers make in excess of $82,000 a year without the bonuses for coaching or
clubs etc. That many teachers make in excess of $90,000 per year when they
retire. To which I got the responses of “I lived in the wrong part of the
country” or “And they took OUR union rights away?”
No my sister was wrong. I feel the Wisconsin teachers got the short end of the stick, and we all got along fine.
As of the time of my writing this, Chicago teachers are out on strike for over a week. The news if full of stories of how the AVERAGE Chicago teacher is paid $75,000 a year, making Chicago teachers among the highest paid teachers in the country.
Again remember in Barrington that 78%-80% of teachers are at the top step making a base of $82,000 plus extras to make more. If Chicago is among the highest paid teachers in the country, what does that
make Barrington teachers?
And I would not mind so much the pay if it were for outstanding teachers (of whom I have met many here in town) and not average teacher (of whom I have met quite a few here also). I would feel better if they were not all paid the same just for showing up.
I have been reading the comments in the Patch about Barrington politics, now that it is the political silly season. I have been reading how we subsidize affordable housing with our tax dollars again and again. This of course is true. And it is being used as a wedge issue to get a Republican majority in the council, portraying the current council as left wing big spenders.
The issue of fiscal Republicans being big on fiscal responsibility would be more believable and genuine if the same people were more concerned about all new expenses to the town. Take the new community center, which I
support by the way, costing $5 million dollars.
The Republicans do not complain as much about that. Is it because the community center committee is chaired by Town Council candidate Margret Kane? (She has said nothing that I have seen on either issue and this is not meant as a criticism of her, but the people who want party control of the Town Council at all costs on both sides)
And they are the people who criticized the new beach house, because of the cost of the maintainenance and up keep, but no word about the cost of the up keep of the community center. And the opposition of a municipal court when, as Dean Huff who everyone respects has structured it, cannot cost us any money but could make us money.
Republicans are opposing it because no one knows how much profit we will make? Or maybe the reason the Republicans oppose it is because it was proposed by a Democrat? I hate the silly season.
I happen to be for all of these things. I think the town should spend money to help its residents, in moderation. I believe that Barrington needs a community center and a better senior center. Compare ours to the one in Warren, you know that smaller poorer neighbor to the south. Our senior center facility is an embarrassment. Ours is a joke.
I believe in controlling its costs, which is exactly what Margret’s committee is doing. I believe that the bath house was a good addition to the town. I believe that the municipal court is a good idea, it is well thought out, and there must a profitable reason why most towns have one. I fear,
as many do, that the judge would be a political appointment. That worries me.
But if we can make money and add a convenience to our residents, why not do it?
Fight the issue of who gets appointed and let the town take the money.
And I believe in affordable housing, in moderation, though for the life of me I can’t see why we need it. Why are we (the state) forcing the town to build more affordable housing when we have many units begging for tenants in
town already, except for those which are nearly free?
Also why is it when I drive by Sweetbriar ,every unit there has a nicer car than my daughter, who, like so many graduated college, moved back home is only working part time and can’t find a job in her field. Why are those heavily subsided units enabling them to afford a better car than her? If you can’t afford rent, why can you afford a nice car and the insurance that comes with it?
We are building more to make money for developers. That is not the reason or purpose of affordable housing and while I support the concept, the issue needs to be reworked.
But all of these issues are just smoke. These are not the big issue in town. The total expenditures of all the issues above total only less than 1% of the budget in
any given year.
The teachers contract is 66% of our budget and four years ago it
was pushed through, by surprisingly, Republicans, not Democrats, earlier than
needed just before Republicans lost power.
The contract is up for renewal. Everyone in both parties should look at this hard. I believe, and I am on the record that all teachers should get raises, but if we do not get a handle on the structural increases in the budget, all of the above issues are moot.
The above issues being fought are just pennies. Remember at $60,000 annual salary, Wisconsin took away their union. At $70,000-75,000 Chicago is one of the highest paid in the country? And where does that put Barrington at $82,000+ per teacher base pay for 78% of teachers?
All sides should stop worrying about the pennies and worry about the dollars. They should keep their eyes on the prize.