The "two Americas" that John Edwards describes were ironically illustrated in the Oct. 26 Voice. Two separate articles addressed the same Silicon Valley concern — paying competitive salaries to "attract and retain talented people and reward them for good work" in public service.
The first article describes compensation for executives at the publicly owned El Camino Hospital ("El Camino execs see big salary increases"). There, salary increases were deemed necessary to "match compensation at similar hospitals around the country." Executives' salaries (not counting sizeable benefit packages) range from $217,000 to $735,000.
Hospital trustee Wes Alles said, "We don't want any of our executives to be outside of that range of compensation. ... This is an expensive place to live."
In another article, Mountain View-Whisman School District Superintendent Maurice Ghysels states his concern about teacher salaries that, again excluding benefits, begin at $44,000 and top out at $82,000 ("Ghysels: Cost of living driving teachers away").
"The cost of living in the Valley is astronomical, and when you look at the salaries for teachers — not just starting, but teachers with master's degrees at the top of the [salary] schedule — it's just heartbreaking because we can't compete. They cannot afford to buy a home in Mountain View or the near vicinity, so we just lose a lot of teachers."
Ghysels went on to say that "It's tough, but we just work with what [money] we can ... in any organization, whether it's a school or a high-tech company, talent is key, and I worry about it." He added that "Teachers go into teaching for much more than just money, they go into it with a sense of purpose and meaning."
Every discussion about teacher pay mentions that teachers are not in it for the money. No disagreement there. However, does one ever see personal values such as purpose, meaning, and "making a difference in the life of a child" mentioned in relation to management pay?
John Edwards is right. There are two Americas. There are people in public service who are making far more than they need, and others who are equally well educated and work just as hard but cannot afford to live in the communities they serve. Are the lives of hospital administrators and teachers so different that one group should earn five to ten times the wages of the other?
I propose that we start to think of teachers as highly skilled and well-paid managers, and be willing to tax ourselves accordingly to pay for their services.
Robin Iwai lives on Carmelita Drive.