What's Different Between Teachers and Bus Drivers?

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 31, 2008

Dear Editor,
    There are two news stories in Austin that, when looked at together, confuse me a bit. I'm talking about the teacher pay raise on the ballot and the possible strike by Capital Metro drivers.
    The teacher pay raise has received vast support throughout the community. Yet, the bus operators wanting to negotiate a better contract seems to be looked at with disdain. Michael King pointed out in last week's Chronicle that the drivers would probably be labeled "greedy and ungrateful" if they have to go out on strike [“Point Austin,” News, Oct. 24].
    Let me compare the two situations. Teachers currently start off at more than $40,000 a year. Driver pay starts off at around $24,000. Teachers get approximately 10 weeks of paid time off each year. Drivers get maybe two weeks off. I assume teachers still have an off period during the day. Drivers are lucky to have time to eat lunch.
    Both professions are important to our city. Teachers are responsible for educating our kids, and drivers ensure safe transportation for thousands of citizens (including teachers and students). I understand the difference in education required for the two jobs. As I understand it, the drivers union is not trying to get them a $16,000 a year raise. They are just trying to keep affordable health care and get a wee bit more money. You know, bus drivers in other cities the size of Austin start off at or near $20 an hour … part time.
    I'm not trying to convince you to vote no on the teachers pay raise, just that we should also be as supportive as possible to the Capital Metro drivers.
Steven McCloud
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