Op-Ed

Antiquated tax system hurts Ky.

At issue |April 30 commentary by Xon Hosteller, "Teacher: Time to support pay cuts over higher taxes"

The writer, a Lexington teacher, should feel free to volunteer to take a pay cut in the name of balancing the inequities in the budget, but he does not speak for me or many of the other public employees that I am proud to work with daily.

When I look behind the tint of his rose-colored glasses and his statement that a simple way to solve the problems the state faces is to take a pay cut, the view is not as pretty or the solutions as simple.

New buildings, roads and industrial parks will never improve an economy that is dependent on an antiquated tax system. The only way our economy can be improved is by an educational and public infrastructure that is properly funded. That is the only viable way of replacing a manufacturing economy that has long since deserted Kentucky.

The very people elected to solve these deficits have bemoaned our antiquated tax structure but offer no solution because it is an election year, or the economy is bad and we do not want to make it worse, or the economy is great and we do not want to make it worse, and any other of the excuses presented over the last decade.

I love to hear how everyone hates taxes — the same taxes that pay for the roads we drive on, the police that protect us, the firemen who save our homes and all of the many things we not only expect, but demand, from government.

Maybe the writer and his family make enough money that he can give some back. Come teach in some of the rural counties where school employees are forced to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Walk in their shoes before so quickly volunteering to cut their pay.

Over the course of the past year, my bills have increased for utilities, health insurance, house insurance, car insurance, phones and food. Clothing costs have gone up. Repair costs have gone up and on and on. I have taken a pay cut each year over the last five years when salaries are stagnant and promises continue to ring hollow.

During that time, I still make donations to the church and to the Scouts. I buy supplies for students in my classes who do not have the money and pay for meals when they cannot. I volunteer for community and civic organizations because I am a public school employee and because that is how I was raised. Everyone that I work with continues to sacrifice for reasons that would be too many to list here.

This is a job where public schools are being held accountable in a system that puts virtually none of the burden on the students in our classes or the parents who send them to us. It's a job where students or their parents care less and less about earning grades but expect those high marks for just showing up to school.

Respect in schools has been replaced by students who curse in your face; school employees have to worry about weapons and threats amid police needed to walk the halls. This is a job where tests measure what a school has taught and not what a student has earned and learned.

Show me a private-sector employer forced by our government and courts to deal with issues that come into our school daily. Those employers do not have to hire or keep employees who come to work sporadically, who do not follow the rules and who are not held to a standard of behavior necessary for the company to be successful. Let alone, their constant use of a phone or iPod or the many other distractions that keep them from studying and homework.

I love the people I work with and the students I have had the pleasure of teaching over the last 23 years. I am a public school employee and have no shame in saying it because I share that job with people who have been helping fellow Kentuckians for more years that I can imagine.

Before the writer asks them to suffer even more, it would behoove him to take off those rose-colored glasses. I will not be presumptuous enough to speak for all of my colleagues like he has. But he does not speak for me.

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