There are a lot of arguments out there for why teachers' salaries should be higher or lower. But the Bible must be a new one. Shadrack McGill, a first-term Republican state senator in Alabama, made the case at a prayer breakfast Monday that teachers shouldn't get a raise, because then they'd be drawn to the job for the wrong reasons.
"It's a Biblical principle," he said, while admitting that he wouldn't want to do a teacher's job.
Before launching into his philosophy on teachers' pay, McGill justified the 62 percent pay raise Alabama's legislators had given themselves in 2007 -- over a governor's veto. This brought their salaries to $49,500 a year. Legislators in the state meet for only 30 days a year, so earn $1,650 per day. McGill said the raise made politicians less susceptible to bribes.
But nothing so noble could come from upping teachers' salaries, according to McGill. "If you double a teacher's pay you'll attract people who aren't called to teach. To go and raise someone's child for eight hours a day, or many people's children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn't want to do it, OK?"
Not that the Alabama legislature has considered doubling teachers' salaries. However, the Dekalb County Times Journal reports a senator as saying that he would introduce a bill to raise pay by 2.5 percent for the one third of the state's teachers with the least seniority. Public school teachers in Alabama earned an average of $47,156 in 2009-10, according to the National Education Association, the largest teachers' union. The national average was $55,350.
McGill introduced a bill last year that would link legislators' salaries to the average teacher's salary, including benefits. He also claimed that Alabama's teachers pay and benefits totaled $65,000, making it the fourth highest earnings package among teachers in the nation. In terms of just pay, the National Education Association ranks Alabama 35th.
The state senator clarified his comments to the ABC-affiliate WAAY on Thursday, saying that he supports a system that would reward good teachers.
"The point that I was trying to make in the speech is simply that ... things ought to be in balance," he said. "I believe God made everything to be in balance. He weighed the Earth and the valley and the mountains and the hills on a scale to keep them in balance because he knew he was going to be spinning it real fast, so that's the jist of it."
A majority of Americans believe teachers are underpaid, according to a poll of 1,142 registered voters conducted earlier this month by the polling company Poll Position. About 56 percent of respondents said teachers don't make enough money.
About 93 percent of Alabamans, on the other hand, opposed the raise their state lawmakers gave themselves, according to a poll by The Decatur Daily in Northern Alabama.
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