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We were shocked to walk into the local CVS pharmacies to find machines taking the place of many of the cashiers. Rather than go to a person, shoppers are routed to machines that scan the items, take the coupons, even make change. They also take jobs away. Worse, it seems the veteran cashiers, the older ones, by and large have been let go, and young girls retained or hired.
What's up with that? Some supermarket chains have also gone automated. All the more reason to shop local.
The Sacred Cow Called Tenure
We have long campaigned for tenure reform in this state, and often railed about the me-first attitude of the United Federation of Teachers.
As an article elsewhere in this issue reveals East End high schools are mediocre at best, yet our teachers are among the highest paid in the state. We are not suggesting there is a correlation – or ruling it out – but we do know in the real world raises are tied to job performance. In fact, in this trying economy people who do not work hard lose their jobs, and in many cases hard workers are laid off because there is not enough money to pay them. Certainly, raises are hard to come by.
Tenure is a guaranteed job for life. Literally. Once a teacher is granted tenure – usually after three years – it is virtually impossible to remove him or her from their position.
Now a group of teachers called Educators For Excellence have shaken the UFT. They want merit raises based on job performance, not raises automatically doled out as if they are sacred rights. And they want to stiffen tenure requirements to make sure teachers just going through the motions are not guaranteed lifetime jobs.
Teachers in Sag Harbor recently drew the ire of taxpayers by insisting on pay raises, even as the local economy tanked and unemployment was high, even as the very property owners who pay their salaries wrestled with paying their mortgages. In their world "step" increases, which are automatic raises given every year, are not "raises" at all and shouldn't be counted as such. These people have master's degrees, by the way. If a teacher earns $100,000 in 2009 and then $103,000 the following year, that teacher received a three percent pay hike. To claim it is not a raise at but a "step increase" is to insult every taxpayer in our community.
The money play right now is for teachers to agree to pay freezes until the economy improves. Otherwise, layoffs are inevitable, as is the decrease in the quality of education that inevitably goes with them. The question our good teachers need to ponder is whether an extra $2000 or $3000 a year really worth antagonizing the community and shortchanging the students.
Our local teachers' unions may see raises as an entitlement, but it appears the rest of Long Island – the real world – is beginning to catch on. In Syosett, 725 teachers have granted the school district $2.5 million in salary concessions. In all, according to Newsday, a dozen school districts reported voluntary concessions from their teachers.
The warning signs are there: Nassau County has gone bust because if its inability to fund the retirement fund. In NYC, Mayor Bloomberg is threatening to fire 21,000 teachers.
We are not criticizing individual teachers, many of whom we know do a great job. But this head-in-the-sand philosophy of refusing to acknowledge what is happening in the real world is a recipe for disaster. One of these days New York, like a lot of other states, is going to announce it can no longer pay the huge pensions the unions have extracted through negotiations with out-classed school board members over the years.
If Governor Cuomo is successful and property taxes are capped each year, there will have to be layoffs in our school districts, and the unions will have to contribute more for health insurance and retirement.
When the economy suffers like it has for the past three years we have seen the sad results – lost jobs and lost homes.
Nothing should be guaranteed.
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