To the editor:
I agree with Megan Helm (Public Forum, March 23) that teachers should retire when they no longer have the energy or interest to teach, but "low morale" isn't just a problem among older teachers in this district. Morale is low because teachers are not valued or supported by the school board, state Legislature or society. How long will even "fresh new blood" last in a this climate?
Teachers do some of the most important work in society, yet they earn far less than most professionals. The modest "step increases" for years of service, which teachers may not even get this year, don't cover increases in cost of living. Children of a teacher supporting a family of four are eligible for reduced-price lunches. What other professional can claim that they live so close to the federal poverty level?
And it's not just the "older" teachers who are leaving. In the Free State High School English department alone, we've lost several of our most enthusiastic, innovative teachers -- one to a Shawnee Mission school for a substantial pay increase, one to another state because he could no longer afford to keep his family in Lawrence, and one who left the profession altogether. Several other excellent teachers will retire as soon as they can, rather than stay on. I am heartily sorry my own children will not benefit from their experience and enthusiasm.
"Low morale" is driving them out. Smart people don't stick around where they're continually insulted and treated as if they don't matter.