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Editorial: Educators are going on strike…

Educators are going on strike….and this makes me sad.

It’s hard to believe that 27 years ago I applied for a position teaching at the Seward Elementary School.  The administrator at that time told me that there were 120 applicants for the single position.

Now I don’t know why he selected me over the others. However, I do know that there had to be at least a dozen or two applicants that were just as qualified as I.

And that’s the point.  Back then the Kenai Peninsula was one of those Alaska school districts that everyone wanted a crack at.  The pay was not the highest in the state…but it was a living wage.  But more so there was a pedagogical energy that was invigorating and exciting.  It drew educators from around the state and the nation to come here to teach.

But that’s the point.  It’s no longer like that.  The wage for teachers and support staff has not kept up with inflation.  In addition, educators now have to pay a large chunk of their insurance premiums thus eroding the take home pay check.  Add to that, educators no longer have a retirement package and are restricted from receiving Social Security funds.  The incentive to come to the Kenai is no longer there.

As a result principals don’t have stacks of applications to triage and, indeed, many positions are left unfilled.  They don’t get the luxury of selecting the premier applicant for the position.  It’s now anyone that will fill the space.

This is not what we want for our kids and grandkids.  And this is why, after not having a contract for two years, teachers and support staff have chosen the nuclear option:  Striking.

There are no winners in a strike.  The hardships are many.  One of the hardships will be those parents of school kids that can not find or can not afford child care.  We need to come together as a community to support the schools by helping those most impacted by the strike.  Find out where the needs are and try to assist in any way.  Provide child care.  Perhaps someone needs a ride.  Find creative ways to help.  And if so inclined show your support to the educators.  Write letters to the school board and superintendent demanding a compensation package that will draw the best educators to the Kenai.  And then tell our legislators and governor that this is ridiculous.  If we don’t have the funds to properly educate our kids then we need to generate these.

The educators are going on strike.  This makes me sad.  But I fully support them.

Marc Swanson

Former 6th Grade Teacher

Seward Elementary School