I’m Ben Franklin and I’m running for President in 2020. Below is a moderate policy proposal to retain high quality teachers, police, and firefighters in poor urban centers like Philadelphia….
Here’s some COMMON SENSE: the great scourge of Philadelphia is poverty. Most other civic problems – crime, education, drugs, etc. – are a direct result of the fundamental need for food and shelter. The cause of this horrible catalyst is a lack of support from the “government for the people” via job opportunities, adequate education, and other services. The government can only operate effectively through the money that it receives from taxes. COMMON SENSE tells us that someone who is unable to put food on the table is also unable to pay taxes. Therefore, the less tax revenue coming in means that the government provides weaker services to assist the poverty-stricken… and the cycle continues.
This proposal is not dedicated to improving the decrepit infrastructure. That will be in several other proposals. Instead, this proposal is dedicated to improving the morale of those service men and women who are on the front-lines battling the negative effects of poverty: firefighters, police, and teachers. These civic heroes spend each and every day focusing their energies into improving the quality of life for the local population despite the lack of resources.
Firefighters and police risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe. They battle the fires, both figurative and literal, that threaten to wholly destroy the neighborhoods. They are our noble service men and women and they do not get recognized for it enough.
Priority one is protecting the community, immediately followed by educating the community. Therefore the city needs to ensure that teachers feel equal support. Firefighters and policeman fight to prevent the expansion of the desolation of the landscape, while teachers fight to prevent the desolation of the soul.
A (brief) NOTE ON TEACHERS
Teachers are the creative geniuses that walk into crumbling buildings in poor, violent neighborhoods and become the impetus for positive change. They fight against the negative mind-set that threatens to pollute our children’s views of community, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
TEACHERS ARE SCIENTISTS. They take into account psychological developments of adolescents and making the appropriate modifications to proven teaching techniques implementing data-driven statistical analysis to ensure student success.
TEACHERS ARE ARTISTS. They apply a creative and an engaging presence, style, and improvisational techniques to ensure that students learn in a thoughtful, entertaining way.
However, the nobility of the work done by these wonderful service people does little to negate the psychological hardships that impact them. Day-in and day-out they receive verbal and sometimes physical abuse within the very realms they attempt to improve. While they are appreciated by many people, they are undervalued and trivialized by many more. Expectations for immediate results weigh down the ever-increasing workloads while classrooms get filled beyond capacity. The financial compensation does little to provide relief to the psychological hardships.
As a result, these front-line fighters burn out and move to the suburbs in droves. Why wouldn’t they? There are fewer behavioral concerns, more resources, healthier senses of “school community”, and improved payment due to the taxes of these lucrative areas… but there may be a heightened risk for grizzly bears. How is a poor urban city to compete?
OK, BACK TO THE PROBLEM….
So teachers are moving to greener pastures in the suburbs. Police and firefighters stick to the job until they retire. The appeal of these positions dwindle meaning less and less people are willing to join the services. This leads to a potential decrease in standards of future teachers, police, and firefighters. Less talented candidates or inexperienced rookies are going to take over. By the time they grow into veterans, they are ready to leave the plight of the city. Therefore, the most important job is to maintain these service men and women. But how?
The answer is simple: incentivize and support. If a city such as Philadelphia is going to be able to maintain the skilled teachers, then the city must encircle itself and truly show these teachers that they are appreciated by the entire population. Standard increases in pay will not be sufficient. The funds are dried up and the state and federal governments have their own agendas for ensuring Philadelphia does not receive the money which is desperately needed. So what can Philadelphia do? What valuable variables does the city have as leverage? Why, we have our entertainments and our commodities!
Imagine for a moment, that a teacher is working 60-70 hours a week and is making approximately $50,000 a year. While the salary is satisfactory, the workload and the realities of exponentially increasing debt hinder the ability to enjoy life to the fullest. Since an increase in payment is unlikely, A DECREASE IN THE COST-OF-LIVING IS THE ANSWER.
The city of Philadelphia should pass a law that requires businesses in the city to discount prices for all commodities and necessities for teachers, police, and firefighters by 25%. This would include grocery stores, real estate, and entertainments such as bars, restaurants, sporting events, cultural events, etc. While businesses might chafe at the idea of losing extra income flow, the city would be able to incentivize the miracle workers of the city to continue with their miracles.
The philosophy behind the law is fundamentally rooted in the idea that we, as a population, must make it our moral obligation to ensure that our children and our neighbors’ children are safe and receive the best education possible. By allowing service men and women to pay reduced prices for all of their daily needs and enjoyments, they will be motivated to continue working within the city when their sense of moral righteousness fades.
The smart business-owner would be able to capitalize on such a law. While decreasing the cost for every drink every teacher consumes might sound like a financial waste to some bartenders, it will actually cause the opposite effect: an increase in sales. Lower drink prices will ensure a steady influx of grizzled, battered, and abused “miracle-workers” polishing the bar stools at 4 PM every day, a whole hour before most Happy Hours begin. Many other businesses would thrive as well since the usually poor and tired educator would feel more inclined to explore and let loose now that they know that their City-Wide Specials cost $1.50… imagine what $10 would do.
As we developed the Constitution in 1787, I remember a constant debate revolving around the idea of salary for political officials. In emphasizing the need for candidates to be motivated to serve from a sense of moral dignity, we kept the salaries minimal. It risked losing highly qualified candidates to more lucrative positions in the private sector, but we represented virtue and righteousness. However, with the positions came a sense of gravitas, which appealed to talented and ambitious wannabe leaders. If we provide discounts to these service men and women, we can let them live above their income, and might be able to create some gravitas for them to stay.
At least we’re not raising taxes…