The Teacher Dollar
Life On Strict Budget With A Family of Six
From the Pittsburgh Press, Sunday Edition, date unsure, page 2.
'Dedicated' Educator Tells How He Does It
Teachers are demanding higher pay in Pennsylvania — and they want it now.
Taxpayers, already vexed by the cost of government, are wondering whether these demands are justified.
This is the third in a series about the economics of public school teaching.
By KENNETH ESKEY
Leo M. Rauterkus is 36 year old. He has a wife and four children. He owns a house and a car. He has no money in the bank, no stocks, no bonds. He is a school teacher and he likes his job.
"As long as we can make it, I'll teach," he said.
In some ways, Leo Rauterkus is typical of the married male school teacher. In other ways he is not.
Higher Pay Passed Up
One difference is the fact that he is a union lather -- a skilled tradesman who could earn, by his own estimate, about $12,000 a year installing partitions for plastering.
Instead, he is earning $8,100 this year teaching social studies, English, and reading to students at Swisshelm School in the Swisshelm Park section of Pittsburgh.
He teaches 37 classes a week, sponsors the safety patrol and the drama club on the side.
He also directs the intramural sports program at the school, for which he is paid $5.50 an hour up to 25 hours per season. There are three seasons. Potential income: $412.50.
His wife, Audrey, works every Saturday in a doctor's office Downtown, earning about $650 a year.
Mr. Rauterkus figures he can earn more than $1,500 as a lather in the summer. Last summer-because of a strike he earned much less.
He estimates family income at about $10,000 in 1967. It probably will be higher this year.
These are not starvation wages. Many teachers would be happy with a $10,000 annual income. Still, the Rauterkus family just barely stays within its budget.
"We live close to the margin," Mr. Rauterkus said. "Without Audrey working, we'd have a really rough time."
Going out for dinner once a month would be a luxury.
"We don't go on vacation -- like to a summer resort for two weeks. That would be beyond our means," Mr. Rauterkus said. Instead, he spends $40 on a summer swim club for the family.
Their modest house in Penn Hills cost $12,300 a dozen years ago. He figures it may be worth $16,500 with improvements.
Mr. Rauterkus drives a used car -- a 1963 Chevrolet. In his lathing days, before he became a teacher, he drove a new car.
There is practically nothing in the Rauterkus budget for clothing. Many of the children's clothes came from family and friends. Nor is there anything in the budget for major medical expenses.
None of this has soured Mr. Rauterkus on teaching.
Likes The School
This is his sixth year as a teacher, his fourth at Swisshelm. He likes the school, the children and the community.
"Sure I'd like to make more money," he said, "but I knew I wasn't going to make a lot of money when I went into teaching."
Is he satisfied with $8100 a year?
"No, but I don't know how much I should make."
He believes married men should get more of a break -- like family hospitalization coverage -- if school boards are really serious about keeping male teachers.
He tends to be concerned -- rather than anygry -- about teacher salaries.
Most of the City's 3,000 teachers belong to one or the other of two major teacher organizations, both of which are demanding sharp pay increases.
But there are hundreds of teachers who belong to no organization. Mr. Rauterkus one of them.
He's Not 'Anti'
He is not anti-organization. He simply has not found a teacher group that completely satisfies his own requirements.
For one thing, he chose teaching after trying a long list of other jobs -- working in a steel mill, selling door-to-door, selling television sets, tuning pianos, 21 months with the Army in Korea, and his work as a lather.
He was 30 when he finally got around to teaching.
Now he is working on a masters degree (at $16 a credit) in elementary education at the University of Pittsburgh, attending classes one night a week.
Why not go into school administration and make more money?
"I'd rather work with the kids," he said.
Dedication Not Enough
As a practical matter, of course, it takes more than just dedication to support a family of six; it takes money to keep good teachers in the schools.
Recruiters for City schools are finding, for example, that companies are luring young people away from the teaching profession.
Especially in demand are home economists, mathematics and science majors. Even English majors and librarians -- considered sure teaching bets in the past -- are winding up in private industry.
Pittsburgh is recruiting teachers at 95 colleges this year, many of them in other states, in an effort to fill 600 expected vacancies in the fall.
This does not mean the City is limping along with incompetents or facing the prospect of shutting down.
Only 3 percent of the 3,000 teaching posts in the City are filled by substitutes who had to be hired as a last resort when recruitment fell short.
This is the lowest percentage in recent years.
Where recruitment fell down last year was in the continuing attempt to find more Negro teachers.
There were fewer Negroes applying for teaching jobs in the City and fewer who accepted offers. Consequently, fewer were hired; only 32, compared with 59 the previous year.
This reflects the fact that educated Negroes are in great demand -- in business, industry and the schools.
In fact, teachers generally are in demand. The supply, as they say in college economic courses, is running a poor second to the opportunities for employment.
NEXT: The remedies.