As an assistant professor of instructional technology at the University of Wyoming, Wyoming House Bill 233 directly impacts me and my students. I am an educator of current and future educators. My responsibilities are 65% teaching, 25% research, and 10% service. I *should* be finishing up a manuscript for publication based on a research study I’m conducting on placing preservice teachers in hybrid practical experiences as mentors in an afterschool robotics program. I *should* be finishing up a manuscript for publication based on a research study I conducted about preservice teacher attitudes towards technology after they interviewed practicing teachers about their technology usage. I *should* be grading the first assignment submitted by my undergraduate students in one of three classes I’m teaching this semester. Instead, I’m drafting this public response to Wyoming HB 233.
HOUSE BILL NO. HB0233
State or school employment contract-compensation reduction.
Sponsored by: Representative(s) Miller, Allen, Clem, Larsen and Salazar and Senator(s) Driskill
As an educator, I love to talk about my students. What teacher doesn’t?
My undergraduate students are education majors or students from other majors, like Chemistry or Mathematics, who seek to enter the alternative certification program we call the “Post-Bacc Program.” Occasionally, I get an undeclared student who’s still trying to decide on a major. The vast majority of my students go on to complete our teacher education program and graduate with a Wyoming teaching licensure, granted by the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board. Some of these students leave Wyoming to seek teaching opportunities in neighboring states; Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, or Idaho. Many, however, stay here in Wyoming and join the teaching profession in one of our communities. They teach elementary school in Rock Springs. They teach social studies in Cheyenne. They teach math in Gillette. Please contact our Dean’s Office or the UW Alumni Office if you’d like more information about where our teacher candidates are teaching.
My graduate students are current K12 teachers and community college faculty. They come to our graduate program in instructional technology to refine their skills as educational leaders and innovators. They seek a master’s or doctoral degree to help secure their position in education and gain the theory and practice behind instructional design, change management, online communication, cognitive psychology, visual literacy, multimedia development. They’re already teaching geography in Rock Springs, mathematics in Casper, K5 in Bondurant, 3rd grade in Gillette, 6th grade in Rock Springs, computer science at Western Wyoming Community College, computer technology at Central Wyoming College and Casper College… the list goes on.
Then there are the students enrolled at the Lab School here on campus, in Albany County School District #1. Yes, I even teach them. I teach a design elective every other year in cooperation with the art teacher that pairs our 7th and 8th grade budding designers with undergraduate students taking a course from Family & Consumer Science in Flat Pattern Design. Together, we explore 2D design versus 3D design and scale. We look at cultural inspirations of design. We talk about the integration of math and science within the context of fabric and fashion design. The Lab School students design patterns that we then print on to fabric using high-tech equipment that they see first hand during facilities tours. The undergraduate students work with their young design partners to create garments using these fabrics. Together, we feature the design teams in the end of year fashion show held on campus. If you find yourself in Laramie on April 22, 2017, please join us at the Union to see the works of functional art and science created by these students. We’d love to have you.
Now that you know who my students are, let’s explore how this proposed legislation impacts them. The proposed legislation would cut teacher salaries by as much as 20% (EDIT FOR CLARIFICATION: The legislation is open to percentage interpretation. This percentage is based on previously discussed block grant cuts.). Let’s play with a word problem scenario here. A quick online search produces the 2012-2013 Wyoming teacher salary schedule. Since two of the HB233 authors are in Lander, I’ll use the Fremont Co School Dist #1 first year teacher salary at the lowest step. A starting teacher in Lander can expect a salary of at least $43,150 (just barely below the state average of $43,269). If we reduce this by 20%, that means a new teacher would be paid $34,520. If we look at the national salary averages for the same academic year, that puts Wyoming below the national average ($36,141). Wyoming would move from being one of the most teacher-friendly states to paying our teachers less than New Jersey, Alaska, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Delaware, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Illinois, Washington, Alabama, Michigan, Vermont, Nevada, Kentucky, Florida, and Indiana. We would move from being known as one of the few states who truly respects, values, and rewards our teachers to falling among mediocre to low paying states. Moving forward with this bill means that we’ll see more articles and headlines like this one: Teacher Salaries Up 5%, Two Years Into Career Ladder, where Idaho boasts being able to recruit our Wyoming graduates into their state. Remember Gov. Mead’s Wyoming Grown program to try and recruit our young professionals to come home? This bill directly undermines the governor’s efforts. Consider that for a moment.
I’ll segue here to share a thought from Dr. Jennifer Geringer, an elementary and early childhood education faculty member at UW and daughter of former governor, the Honorable Jim Geringer.
Cut anyone’s salary by 20% and they stop spending. Decline in sales tax revenue. Businesses close. Cities & state further strapped for cash. Can’t compete for high quality educators. Teacher shortage. Decline in quality of education. People leave the state. Loss of revenue. Reduced population means smaller pool of potential employees. Businesses decide not to set up in WY. Further loss of revenue. Lack of job opportunities as students graduate, forces people to relocate. Loss of current AND future revenue. AND don’t even get me started on how inhumane it is to take away the livelihood of the women & men who educate our children.
Jenn is my friend, and her words gave me pause. I may not be a native Wyomingite, but it’s quickly become Wy[home]ing for this Texas transplant. Our state has been through a rough year. I’ve watched the southwestern and northeastern corners of our state struggle through the energy industry downturn. I’ve tearfully hugged students who told tales of families losing jobs and considering dropping out of school to go home and try and find work. I’ve watched warily as the UW budget woes hit campus and the rippling effects. My faculty friends and colleagues have received direct and indirect advice to seek appointments at universities in other states. My staff member friends have increasingly looked for positions outside the university and outside the state. My own husband, who works at the UW Power Plant is considering his options. In the past month alone, at least two staffers in key administrative roles have left for jobs in Colorado. We’re already facing zero cost of living or merit pay increases due to the budget. Cutting salaries further will not help retain the faculty and staff we have left. The lowered salaries will not entice anyone to apply and fill these now vacant positions. Enrollment at UW will decline. Houses currently for sale will continue to sit empty as more flood the Laramie real estate market and we all choose the tough decision to move on. The logical conclusion of implementing an across the board state or school employee salary reduction would be, in short, disastrous.
To Representatives Miller, Allen, Clem, Larsen and Salazar & Senator Driskill, do you devalue your constituents so much that you’re willing to seek to implement such a drastic and illformed concept? I formally invite you to join my undergraduate students for class one morning and explain to them your intent with this proposal. My class meets every Tuesday/Thursday from 8:10AM to 9:25AM in Education 4.
To Rep. Allen & Rep Larsen: One of my direct advisees is an outstanding young man majoring in Secondary Education – Geography and a product of Lander schools. I’m happy to invite him to class on the day you choose to attend so that you can look at him and tell him that his chosen career isn’t worth a quality salary.
To Rep. Clem: One of my direct advisees, and figural daughter, is an amazing young woman double majoring in Secondary Education – English and Psychology with Honors. She’s a graduate of Campbell County High School and is currently back home completing her student teaching residency. I’m happy to have her join class on the day you choose to attend via Skype or Google Hangouts so that you can look at her and tell her that she won’t be making as much as she thought she would when she graduates in May.
To Rep. Salazar: It just so happens that I have a young man in my class this semester who is from Dubois. While it would pain me to see him drop my class so early in the semester and miss out on his invaluable contribution, you should be the one to tell him now that it’s probably best that he change his major before he takes too many classes.
Your collective message in HB233 to current and future educators is clear. You do not value our contribution to the state, to our youth, to society. At least do the courtesy of looking us directly in the eyes and tell us why our chosen profession is not worth proper compensation.
To my fellow Wyomingites: Please let these men hear from you directly about their proposed legislation. Use the following contact information and exercise your right to representation to tell them that this proposal is unacceptable. Help send the rest of the United States a clear message that we DO value education and educators. In the words of my husband, Kristopher Marriott, “Keep the masses poorly educated and they will believe anything you tell them. The uneducated and poorly educated are actually easier to control and instill fear into.” Do not let them instill fear into our hearts. WE are the people. THIS is our state. THEY represent us.
David R. Miller
131 Davis Lane
Riverton WY 82501
Home – (307) 857-5789
Fax – (307) 857-2833
P.O. Box 243
Lander WY 82520
Cell – (307) 349-6784
1802 Lime Creek Avenue
Gillette WY 82716
Cell – (307) 660-7141
1076 South 2nd Street
Lander WY 82520
Work – (307) 332-4617
Cell – (307) 321-1221
P.O. BOX 1520
Dubois WY 82513
Cell – (307) 220-1213
Devils Tower WY 82714
Cell – (307) 680-5555