I stood in a crowd yesterday. It's not my favorite thing to do. I prefer a nice orderly line that will eventually allow me to take a ride on Space Mountain. I am crabby that way. And still, there I was, amidst the milling throng that was Octoberfest. Without a particular desire for a pretzel and no specific need to see the block-long tent that housed the beer garden, I found myself having discussions with friends and neighbors who happened to stroll across my meandering path. And what do you suppose we talked about?
It just so happens, by no crazy accident, that the two people I had extended conversations with were both teachers. Both of them happen to live nearby, but have jobs in surrounding districts. I listened carefully to what they had to say, over the oompahs and the periodic yodeling. The talk was about health care, and class size, and the possibility of a strike. This one guy, who teaches PE told me about having fifty-three kids in one class, and how he had to apologize to a mother who complained that her daughter was marked absent two days when she hadn't missed one. "My mistake," he told her, "I'm still learning every body's name." His district is going to eliminate all health care benefits come this January. He expects to be on strike before Halloween.
The other teacher I spoke with works in a district with better pay, but they don't bother to provide health coverage. That higher salary levels out on a scale that includes buying your own insurance. We wondered aloud about merit pay and test scores while the funnel cakes and the pretzels flowed around us. She said that she hoped to be out of teaching before the full measure of Barack Obama's education plan took effect.
On the way home I watched a couple of guys loading their Italian ice machine in the back of their truck, and I wondered how their dental plan was.