DECEMBER 23, 1946
NEW YORK, Sunday—I said something the other day about placing a floor under the salaries paid throughout the country to our teachers. I was thinking in terms of elementary, grade-school and high-school education, particularly in rural areas. I have been shocked, however, to read of the difficulties in which our college teachers find themselves in New York State, which is supposed to have such a very high educational standard. To be sure, as a state, we have lagged far behind in providing free educational opportunities on the college and graduate school level. To discover, however, that the rapid rise in the cost of living, with no compensating rise in salary, has forced many of our college teachers to supplement their salaries by doing manual labor in what should be hours of leisure, is a really shocking commentary on the value which we put on our children's education.
In the City of New York during the last normal year before the war—October 1940 to October 1941—there were 31 resignations, I am told, from the regular teaching staffs of the four municipal colleges and 27 resignations from the clerical staff. On the other hand, from October, 1945 to October, 1946 there have been 94 resignations from the teaching staffs of the four colleges and 122 resignations from the clerical staffs. If the number of students had remained approximately the same, or had decreased, this would not be so serious; but because of returning veterans and the normal increase in students, there is a great rise in enrollment.
The state sets the salary schedules, but it gives only a nominal amount to higher education; and perhaps here is where increased aid to the Board of Higher Education would make possible the necessary adjustment. Few people realize that more than half of the permanent teachers in our city colleges have only about $300 a month in take-home pay. In Queens College, this is true of 75 percent of its staff. For temporary teachers the pay is often less than $200 a month, and most clerical employees receive less than $2,000 a year.
Usually, in jobs which are connected in some way with the government, the advantages held out are greater stability and security in the job, pensions for old age and more liberal vacation periods. But if you have to do outside tutoring or some other kind of outside work to make ends meet, that cuts out your holidays; and it is also quite evident that many teachers today, particularly those who marry and have children, are obliged to skimp on dental and medical care as well as on housing, clothing, furniture and even food.
Even the most timid who long for security may be forced to resign and try to find some occupation which meets the needs of the moment a little more adequately. When you realize that every college teacher must have many years of preparation for his work, you wonder a little how our state and city officials expect to hold any of their good teachers. What is to happen to the opportunities offered to our children in the field of free, higher education?