In this day and age when the audiences at the Republican presidential debates have been vocally cheering Rick Perry’s execution record in Texas, or the idea of letting a young man in a coma without health insurance die, it is easy to become completely cynical and not see that there are actually plenty of good-hearted people still around. One such group of people was recently highlighted in a newspaper article entitled “Teachers Give Up Money for Books” by the Omaha World-Herald:
Mead Superintendent Dale Rawson has never seen anything like it.Before I continue, let me just give my heartiest thumbs up to the teachers from the Mead Public Schools. Yours is the type of generous spirit and belief in the common good that has become all too rare in America these days. My hat is off to all of you.
When the health care provider for Mead Public Schools and other districts offered teachers a one-month vacation from paying their insurance premium, it was with the stipulation that teachers and school boards agree how the money was to be spent.
"The state teachers' association recommended all local teacher groups work toward seeing that windfall translated into direct compensation for teachers," Rawson said.
But Mead teachers had a different idea. They wanted the nearly $28,000 — which would have translated to about $1,000 apiece — used to buy textbooks.
"We had settled earlier in the spring, and we actually got what we asked for," said Marcia Lamberson, who represented Mead teachers in negotiations. "We talked about what to do with these funds and decided this would be the best use for the money."
Lamberson said many of the social studies books, especially at the high school level, are outdated and teachers often have to find supplemental materials.
Rawson, who has been in Mead for two years, said he "was just stunned" by the teachers' decision and commended them for their generosity. "In 30 years as a superintendent, I've never had a staff that would do that."
I use this story as a counter to all of the recent public employee union bashing that has become a regular feature of our media these days. “Austerity” minded State governors from Scott Walker in Wisconsin to Chris Christie in New Jersey, in particular, have gotten plenty of political mileage out of bashing the teachers' unions.
That’s not to say that the public employee unions do themselves any favors when they refuse to acknowledge the very real financial crisis that many states and municipalities are facing and will continue to face. It would be far better if everyone in this era of permanent economic contraction would recognize that there is very much a need for shared sacrifices. Unfortunately, those who have been yelling the loudest about the benefits given to others—be it health care coverage, pensions or even public employee compensation—have repeatedly demonstrated that they have little interest in helping to provide for the common good, let alone any desire to willingly participate in such shared sacrifices.