Picture this…

You walk into Target, and there is a perky, young thing holding a fabric-lined basket that matches her red shirt, greeting you with, “Would you like to make a donation to our organization today? Your contribution will allow us to buy some much needed supplies like toilet paper, light bulbs and hangers for our displays. Otherwise, we employees have to buy these things ourselves. Every little bit helps, so whatever you can give is sincerely appreciated…(wink)”

You think to yourself, “What?! Doesn’t management supply those basic necessities for this place through the money they collect with sales? What a cheap place, asking me for a donation over and above what I already give them when I buy stuff! Where is all their money going? I’m outta here…”

I know what you’re saying…What an unrealistic, ‘way out there’ scenario, Mary…where are you going with this?

Okay, now picture your local public school. If you have kids in public school, you don’t have to imagine where I’m going. How much have you given to your kids’ classroom, and the school PTO/PTA to allow the students (your kid) to have basic tools for their job (aka learning)? Pencils, Erasers, Glue, Paper, Markers, Tissues, Hand Sanitizer, Paper Towels…Buying junk during fundraisers for the purchase of a shade structure over the playground so the kids don’t burn themselves on the metal while playing when school starts at the beginning of August and it’s still 100 degrees…

Why do we think it’s unrealistic and ridiculous for Target to ask for donations for basic supplies to keep the place running, but we just go along with our Public Schools doing so? I know this is a complicated issue, with teachers salaries traditionally being poverty level, but even though the education of our kids doesn’t make one a millionaire, thanks to the Teacher’s Union, it aint poverty, baby! The lowest starting salary for an elementary school teacher is in North Dakota at $24,872/yr, and the highest is in Connecticut at $39,259/yr.* Since the Federal Poverty Level for a family of 4 is $22,350**, if that teacher in North Dakota is a single parent of three children just starting out in the teaching profession, I would feel for them, but if they have a spouse with another income, I’d feel better.

Since most of the households who send their kids to the local private school (and many who do not) pay taxes to support said school, I can’t imagine that the teacher salaries are the problem. (I haven’t addressed the benefits, like medical and retirement, however, which far outweigh current salaries in the school budget). I applaud anyone who can get full medical benefits for themselves and their families…I wish I had them, and don’t begrudge anyone who does. I take issue with the retirement benefits, however.

Now, before my teacher friends on Facebook “unfriend” me and banish my kid to the back of the room with a dunce cap, hear me out, please.

In order to be a teacher one MUST belong to the Teacher’s Union. Therein lies the problem, I think. Since I’m not a teacher, and don’t belong to the union, I can’t speak with any certainty or intelligence on the actual day to day goings-on of the organization. I can only say that I don’t think a union should be involved in any government agency or job. A union is not a fair institution in a company where the employees can actually vote on who their boss is…why would anyone need protection from someone he/she actually chose as a boss, and can then fire a few years?!

I don’t have the answers to the question, “So what do we do to change this?” I can only start by removing all unions from public service positions, and giving full salaries to all government employees (including politicians) ONLY while they actually have the job, and not one day later. Take the current retirement benefits program and use it to increase current salaries, so employees can invest in their own retirement programs. This way, they can actually build their own wealth and leave something to their families if they so desire, rather than, when they die, allowing their retirement money to simply go to some other government retiree.

The political climate is hopefully changing faster than global warming, but real change will require the realization that we are all part of a community, and some of us cannot benefit greatly by the suffering of others without major consequences – hint…has anyone’s lifestyle changed since 2007? We have already proven that the current system doesn’t work, so this is a call to action for the ‘powers that be’ to actually study “line by line” to find the inequities, and give us, the people paying for them, a chance to fix them. Sure, a few people will scream when their undeserved riches are take away, but since when has this been a country ‘of the few…for the few…by the few’?

Wait…I guess it is right now…

If you have a better idea on how to institute Federal and State change, please share. At least one person is listening, and that’s a start.


—Mary Kathryn Johnson 2011