Blaine County teachers must have some mild form of autism, a mental disorder characterized by the inability to recognize social cues and the emotional states of others. Untreated, autism makes it difficult for afflicted individuals to communicate and leaves them isolated from society.
Blaine County's teachers exhibited a form of autism when they asked for a 2 percent salary increase. In being inclined to approve it, the school board exhibited something else disturbing: a political tin ear.
The request, though seemingly modest in the face of a 2.7 percent annual increase in the national Consumer Price Index since last year, was jaw-dropping. Where were the teachers and the board all winter?
Did they not see the Idaho Legislature, Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna decide that paying for computers was preferable to paying for teachers? Did they not notice the attack on the state's teachers' unions or the specific attack on Blaine County's ability to fund education?
How could they fail to notice the economic pain being experienced locally? How could they not acknowledge the high unemployment, furloughs, layoffs and wage cuts? How could they ignore the home foreclosures and empty storefronts?
How could they fail to appreciate the solid political and economic support they've received from local taxpayers even during the worst of it?
By any reasonable standard, local teachers are not underpaid.
Demanding even higher wages at this time loses them friends in the political fight over education funding and leaves them isolated—even in a county full of stalwart advocates of good schools.