Items That Won't Recycle
Other non-recyclable items: lids or caps found on just about every product packaged in plastic. Again, we might say, 'Why worry?' Well, sooner or later Mother Earth is going to get a belly fully and regurgitate all this stuff from her innards and scatter them at our feet. And what about Braun’s plastic container of alcohol (probably) made in Germany with NO recycle symbol on its surface or the plastic mailers we all receive when we purchase items through the mail?
Whatever happened to the term “bio-degradable” bandied about in Time and Newsweek articles in the 1970s? It seems that the problem anymore isn’t so much what recycles and what doesn’t (often a recycling process uses yet more energy than it is worth to make the substance useful again), but what will be digested by Mother Earth and what will give her gas. There exist small and pitiful moves among fast food vendors to utilize containers made of corn, but so far, not one of these magnates has signed on to do this in a big way.
Look for links at the end of the post for further reading.
I’m largely concerned with teacher/retiree response to this development. The entire time I taught from 1974 to 2002, teachers in Lubbock Independent School District and indeed from across the state belonged to four, count them, four organizations/unions. The state legislators might as well have invented the concept of divide and conquer; they had to have laughed each time four organizations approached them with similar but usually differing goals. When I first taught, many teachers’ incomes often were "gravy" for the household, the spouse (usually the husband) earning more than enough for the family. The little woman’s (or man’s) income was his/hers to do with as s/he pleased. What did s/he care if no raise was offered by the local board or by the state? As time passed, however, reflecting our society at large, more and more Texas teachers wound up being single parents attempting to provide for their own offspring by way of a paltry teacher's salary. And still teachers did not unite in one voice.
Moreover, Texas legislators and the public at large always seem to have acted as if a teacher is some sort of a missionary, that we should be happy to receive what we get, for, after all, we’ve assumed a calling of some sort. Pitooey. Working sixty hours a week without fair remuneration is not a calling. Skillfully raising test scores is not a calling. Inveigling students to learn how to read when they care not to is not a calling. Teaching is a skilled profession that requires at least one degree (which includes state certification) plus much devotion, and, even though districts seldom reward those with advanced degrees in terms of salary (I mean really reward), there are plenty of people who earn advanced degrees in hopes of becoming a better professional. The time has arrived for teachers/retirees to act differently. If local districts are to recruit bright, altruistic young people to teach, the profession must offer them more in the way of salary and benefits (one of which includes a decent pension to offset an average salary package and the lack of social security to boot).
There are over 800,000 Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) members, made up of both active teachers and retirees. I contend that we 800,000 must act differently this time in the face of what the Texas legislators wish to do to our (and it is our) pension fund. We must be pro-active, to use a term we all heard a lot before we left teaching. We must read carefully about what these men (and they are mostly men) intend to do to our fund.
We must be united. Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) works hard to keep us all informed. The organization lobbies without fail during the legislative seasons. But are their efforts enough? Without question we all should pay the yearly fee and join their ranks, but is TRTA adequate in a world where conditions can change in a second? I have in mind the young woman who brought Bank of America to its knees by petitioning them with 350,000 signatures protesting a proposed $5 month fee for using a bank ATM. How about the Egyptians, the Tunisians, who brought down corrupt governments through social networking Web sites? I have in mind the Occupy movement. Is our issue as big as theirs? You better believe it is, or we, too, may wind up getting the shaft like Wisconsin teachers with regard to collective bargaining (which, by the way, is not legal in Texas).
We must not allow anyone to divide teachers from retirees. Retirees must fight the legislators that wish to make current educators pay a higher contribution rate, and current teachers must support the plight of a retiree, who has been living on the same monthly check since 2001 (more than a 30% loss in spending power). We’re two sides of the same thin dime, and we must support one another without allowing the legislature to divide and conquer us.
And we have to figure out a way to bring this issue to the attention of the public, particularly in Texas. We have to bring state legislators to their knees (or at least their senses). Might we write a petition that people can sign online? Might we unite—old and young, people of all ethnic groups, gay and straight—by way of Facebook and Twitter? Might people, right or left, finally tire of the Machiavellian treatment we’ve been receiving for years from these high-handed people, who act without thinking about the larger consequences, who have God-knows-what kind of designs on our $110 billion fund?
The Texas legislators would tell you that the fund is failing. The $110 billion TRS fund is NOT failing; it is not in great need of tinkering. It is among the top six pension funds in the United States. It has a high international ranking, as well. It has taken some hits including the Enron debacle over a decade ago, or earlier, in the mid-1990s, when Texas legislators reduced their contribution to the fund down to a mandated 6%, where it has remained. These far right legislators claim that the fund is “failing,” but it is not. It is healthy, in spite of their efforts to neglect or destroy it over the years. It is well managed by professionals who know what they’re doing. The fund has even recovered from the hit it took in 2008. Instead of seeing how they can dismantle it, Texas legislators ought to be figuring out a way to fully fund the plan. They should not only bring their contribution back to mid-1990s levels, at the very least, but they should pay the fund back for all the money lost during that fifteen year + period. Texas is still a wealthy state. In our oil-rich economy, our legislators could figure out in a minute how to fund this plan if their feet got hot enough. We must hold their feet to a certain fire.
This is not an issue just for whiny teachers/retirees who somehow never appear to be grateful for what they’re given. This is an issue for parents and their children. It is an issue for anyone who lives in a neighborhood with children. If districts can’t recruit qualified teachers who can look forward, at least, to a fair retirement, then what hope is there for improving education? A district can have the newest equipment, the best in technology, but if there aren’t competent and caring teachers to employ the use of these things—and most studies show that teachers are the most important factor in providing a great education—then what hope is there? Please help. Get involved. Act.
FOR FURTHER READING:
Texas Retired Teachers Association
Teacher Retirement System of Texas