As when old Looney Tunes characters were getting goosed, many teachers’ eyeballs have popped out of their heads lately at some really wacky news. The Review-Journal reported last week that former school district Superintendent Dwight Jones, who recently quit halfway through his contractual commitment, would receive $24,000 for 22 unused sick days, or about $1,090 per day. Imagine that.
What wasn’t in the RJ story, however, was that teachers retiring from the district last year received, after a lifetime of dedicated service to our schools, only $8.01 per day for their accrued, unused sick leave. And they could only get such cash for up to 100 unused days, or a top total of $801 per teacher, according to a district spokesperson.
Lets’ see: One failed reformist bozo superintendent, $1,090 per day; one dedicated teacher, $8.01 per day; humor value, priceless. Talk about a big fat pie being squished into a teacher’s face. Perhaps beneath all this whipped-cream comedy, though, is a hint of exactly how much teachers — those who shore up and protect our children’s lives daily — are truly valued in Nevada.
The actual monetary value of an unused sick day is about $100, roughly the cost of a substitute teacher when the regular teacher is absent. To give regular teachers something akin to a handout to a panhandler ($8) rather than a valid incentive here is simply to encourage teachers to utilize all of their sick days — every year. Which some teachers, smartly, already do. But every day a teacher is absent from school means it’s a day students are without the licensed educator hired to teach the class.
So let’s do a little math: If 18,000 teachers use all their sick days (15 per year per teacher), that’d be 270,000 total school days without the hired licensed instructor on the job, costing the district an extra $27 million yearly. Plus, those 270,000 days translate into 54,000 weeks, or 1,500 actual school years, that students would be deprived of the rigor of their assigned classroom teachers. Annually. Imagine that.
Here’s another interesting comparison: As he was running for the U.S. House of Representatives last year, the RJ reported that Democrat John Oceguera, former speaker of the state Assembly, had retired as a firefighter, after 20 years, with a lump sum payment of $283,733.69 for unused sick leave. Now, I’m no math teacher, though I may have fooled you in the above paragraph, and I don’t know how many unused sick days he in fact had, but I’m guessing that Oceguera’s bonus for such days wasn’t at the same rate as that of your average public-school teacher.
Again, one local firefighter (an assistant chief), $283,733.69 for a career of unused sick days; one local teacher, $801, for a career of unused sick days, based on last year’s rate. Wow. Grab a seltzer bottle. Cue the laugh track. And color me daffy. Theater of the absurd doesn’t get better than this. You wanna be a teacher when you grow up, kiddies? Seriously?
I don’t know. I’m not really writing here, dear reader. I’m just linguistically doodling my little looney-tune thoughts about teaching in the Clark Cartoonish School District.
B’da, b’da, b’dat’s all, folks!
CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher with 212 unused sick days.