March 16, 2010

FRIDAY OPINIONHard-working teachers merit our thanks

The Way

— This is in regard to Donald Saastamoinen's diatribe concerning teachers (''Give taxpayers, not teachers, some badly needed tax relief,'' Aug. 8). Sounds as if he wishes he'd gone into this profession, which I hold in high esteem, although I am not a teacher.

click image to enlarge

Staff Photo by John Patriquin, Thu, Jan 17, 2002: Portland HS piano teacher Bethany Kirkpatrick helps student Nick Nappi in a piano class today.

Three points:

n The last time I looked, teachers are taxpayers too.

n Regarding his statement, ''even though they work only part time,'' I can assure him that when teachers are working, most put in more than 40 to 60 hours a week.

They have mandatory workshops and parent-teacher conferences, and many volunteer their time working on after-school activities and fundraisers. There are conference calls after hours to parents/guardians, as well as strategic meetings.

n Calling them a ''greedy group'' is incomprehensible. I know many teachers who spend their hard-earned money on supplies for their classrooms. Is it unions that Mr. Saastamoinen has a problem with, or the taxes that go to fund our schools?

Our schools teach our children to be well-rounded academically so they have the tools to succeed at higher-learning institutions. In our ever-competitive global market, thank goodness we have teachers who care.

By the way, the next time you see a successful young person -- whether a soldier or a sailor, or in a nonprofit, health care, corporate, law enforcement or blue-collar job -- ask them how they were inspired. I bet many would say, ''By a teacher.''

Teachers are inspirational, for they come from all types of backgrounds, and I thank them.

Traci A. Moulton


As a teacher, I was insulted by Donald Saastamoinen's rant on Aug. 8.

It may be easier for him to attack teachers rather than work on a solution for our economy.

Teachers hold bachelor's degrees; it's a requirement to hold the position and to be state-certified to teach.Most of us had to pay for the education we earned; we start our careers tens of thousands of dollars in debt. In most of the districts' contracts, the average annual pay increase is about $1,500, well below the cost of living.

Teachers are contracted for 180 days. However, we prepare, teach, correct papers and take courses to maintain our certification. (We have to pay for renewal out of our pockets.)

I don't know of any teacher who works 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. We stay late for meetings and work from home, and are not compensated for our time.

We are salaried; benefits are a part of our salary, with no paid overtime. We are expected to provide taxpayers' children with a quality education, meet all state requirements and find a way to spend time with our families. We often spend vacations working.

It's sad that some have to sell their property; however, it's extremely unfair to place the blame on teachers. Ours aren't the only salaries paid for with taxpayer money. Our salaries aren't stellar. Tax relief would be welcome -- we're trying to survive, too.

I suggest that Mr. Saastamoinen conduct research before submitting a public rant.

Heidi Bernier


Specialty plate proposals need not present problem

Maine could keep the vanity plate issue in check by retiring the least popular one when a new plate is introduced and approved.

Barbara J. Callahan

South Portland

Expedite political solutions by voting out incumbents

We read in the Press Herald that many people are disgusted by the ineffectiveness of our elected lawmakers at resolving the problems facing us.

On the federal level, we're saddled with soaring gasoline and fuel prices, a failing economy, increased taxes and many furloughed employees.

The current Congress has passed fewer laws than any since the last decade, though Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., had the temerity to boast that he had introduced a resolution to recognize June 30 as National Corvette Day. Why aren't these lawmakers trying to resolve our country's ills?

In Augusta, our legislators are content to go along with Gov. Baldacci's appointment of four more directors to the board of Dirigo Health -- for a total of nine -- because they don't have to risk anything politically or rock the boat.

That is quite an increase in overhead for an insurance plan that has approximately 12,000 enrollees and is not self-sustaining.

I believe that I have a solution to make each and every one of our elected legislators sit up and take notice of why they've been elected by us.

Regardless of which party you belong to, at the next election, don't vote for the incumbent candidate.

If everyone follows through on this, the incumbent would definitely be voted out of office. After a few elections, this would make the legislators left in office realize that if they do not fulfill the will of the people who elected them, their heads would be on the chopping block.

Fernand LaRochelle


Weighing in on what's causing newspaper's woes

When visiting Maine, we often pick up the Portland newspaper.

In the Aug. 5 issue, I noticed two things: an article about concern over the financial condition of the newspaper, and the fact that you have the smallest, lamest comics section I've ever seen in any major city paper. Could these be related?

It's easy to pick up the latest news on the Web or CNN, and local news on TV, but not easy to read a good selection of comics and features each morning with breakfast.

I hate to break it to the news editors, but this is now the only unique thing your product offers.

Ann B'Rells

Schenectady, N.Y.

Now how could that happen to a paper that favors free trade? It did not have to compete with an offshore paper that paid low wages. The editorial staff did not have to lose their jobs to HB1 visa holders or illegal immigrants.

Did the paper believe this country could lose millions of jobs and it would not someday be affected? Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call to those who believe they are too smart to get hurt. Now they can compete for those good-paying jobs.

I feel sorry for the workers who, through no fault of their own, will lose their jobs. We can all be thankful to people like John W. Porter for this mess America is in.

E. Tom Walter


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