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THE PATTERN IS FAMILIAR: BLAME THE TEACHERS

It comes as no surprise to Buffalo public school teachers that they and their union would shoulder the blame for the late starting school year, as it did in a recent News editorial.

Some of the confusion could have been avoided by earlier administrative notice to parents, but the real issue was last June with the hecticness of grading test papers and doing bookkeeping all during the same week. This year the schedule of the New York State Regents and the Buffalo Teachers Federation contract coincide.

But the pattern is here. Something goes wrong, blame the teachers. They make too much money, their union is the cause of all that's wrong with the city.

A prime example of this thinking was evidenced in a recent In the Debate written by Martin L. Schechtman, president of the Orchard Park Citizens Group. His distortions and vacuous logic are like a tobacco company's advertisement telling people how great the product is but leaving out the basic fact that it's also going to kill them.

Teachers who say they are underpaid invoke ire in Mr. Schechtman, so he tries to calculate the value of teaching byusing a "fair 235-day year" because teachers, I suppose unfairly, only work 186 days a year.

He inflates salaries to absurdity. But just a reminder: Teaching is not only classroom time, but correcting papers, preparing lessons, gathering materials, analyzing documents for classroom presentations and countless administrative details, not to mention the years of work for degrees and updating skills.

Yet the salaries of corporate executives making millions to bring cancer to many more millions of people don't make Mr. Schechtman angry. Why not?

A teacher's salary only brings that person into the middle class, unless they happen to have children going to college. What's wrong with a decent day's pay for a decent day's work? Oh, I forgot -- teachers don't work.

At least The News contradicts its teacher bashing. It sponsors the Newspaper in Education program, which brings the newspaper into schools. It also runs articles explaining why higher standards are so important to a quality education and why more investment in education is vital.

Ironically enough, such an editorial appeared right next to Mr. Schechtman's piece. A few years ago, the News ran a professional and objective analysis of problems in the Buffalo public schools, which actually supported teachers' efforts and criticized the city administration.

Educational research has long cited the inadequacies and failures of the property tax to fund public education. If a regressive tax is the problem, change it.

There are too many critical issues in education to be slogging around in teacher bashing. Public school education is a social investment in democracy. We either invest in our society or we lose our democracy.

Ray Peterson Buffalo

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