‘Conceit and ignorance’ define policy

Published 10:42 pm Thursday, April 17, 2014

To the editor:

I write this letter in support of education, to address a City Council that appears to govern not in support of education, but in spite of education. The actions of this council exemplify imbalance, conceit and ignorance, but I hope the consensus among their number will be to reconsider fully funding the local education system.

I speak for the tired teachers — mentally, physically or otherwise — who do not, cannot or will not confront this council. Many fear retribution for a redress of grievances, and still more feel it to be a pointless exercise.

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I speak for the thousands of Suffolk families who send their best to us every day — their children. There are 14,365 of them, one-sixth of this city’s population. Add their families, and the total climbs to nearly half the citizens of this city. How are they served by a policy of annual education underfunding?

I also speak for myself. My education career spans 10 years of determined service in Suffolk Public Schools. In that time, I have gained accolades both locally and regionally for my instruction, my professional development and my technical expertise, the results of an investment made in me that, if given the time, I will repay.

If I had my wish, I would continue to teach in Suffolk for my entire career. But when I need to work over the summer to make the ends meet, or when I must work an extra detail, because I have to consider it my “raise” for lack of an actual one, it is time to reconsider and realize that not all wishes come true.

When a person of my experience can drive to another municipality and do the same work for $2,000 (Norfolk), $5,000 (Isle of Wight or Chesapeake), or even $5,500 (Portsmouth) more, then the compensation model requires careful evaluation and alteration.

Suffolk is an interesting place in terms of demographics. Very few cities on a state or regional level compare to our demographics (Albemarle County, Wicomico County, Md., and a few North Carolina counties have some similarities). In Albemarle County, with a base population of about 100,000 (including a 20,000-student university), a teacher of my experience earns $49,058, compared to Suffolk’s $41,671. That’s a $7,000 difference.

The biggest difference, though, is this: Albemarle County has what Suffolk covets, a AAA bond rating.

While the council may infer that this city’s demographic uniqueness equates to carte blanche in terms of funding and questionable assessment/taxing practices, I would disagree. Bond ratings are based on sustainable growth, balance, and fiscal responsibility, all achievable though considerable reform of the city’s funding of its education system and public safety agencies.

Essential employees deserve a fair working wage that is reliably funded by reasonable revenue generation to retain a high-quality workforce.

Require this of your councilman or, on Election Day, elect one that will.

Tim Kubinak