This is a letter to the editor submitted by a Students for Democratic Schooling. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters, email koconnor@ithacavoice.com.

CORRECTION (4:30 p.m. Dec. 21) — This is a revised version of an opinion piece submitted by Students for Democratic Schooling, originally published Dec. 19, that corrects inaccuracies about spending. 

ITHACA, N.Y. — At Ithaca High School, and in the Ithaca School District as a whole, we love our teachers. Any student can easily produce a list of names that mean something more than an apparatus for learning; our teachers make our classes engaging, entertaining, and informative. While students may have preferences among them, most would say our community of teachers is irreplaceable. So, we ask, why does the administration seem to want to replace them?

The central administration of the district will be entering into negotiations with the Ithaca Teachers Association (ITA) for the new teachers’ contract. In these negotiations, the administration plans to offer a moderate raise for teachers, and an automatic, uniform raising of healthcare costs for the next several years. Our teachers are already paid embarrassingly little, especially compared to teachers in surrounding districts, and this will do nothing to change that. For many years, ICSD has ranked in or near the bottom 100 districts in New York State in terms of median teacher salaries. This is especially egregious when we take into account the high prices of living in Ithaca, which has caused many current teachers to live elsewhere, burdening them with lengthy daily commutes. The administration has done nothing to improve these problems, and with this latest negotiation, it will try to force the teachers to give up even more. Two years ago, the administration took away sabbaticals and raised healthcare costs significantly for teachers, and now it’s proving again it simply doesn’t care about teachers.

We are very concerned about this trend. The quality of teachers is a great boon to the students of ICSD, who generally perform significantly above average compared to the rest of the state and nation on standardized tests and other assessments. However, the District runs the risk of losing these amazing people if its practice of ignoring teacher needs continues. Already, the District has been losing teachers to surrounding districts, which pay their teachers better and provide superior benefits. With this latest blow to teachers, the administration is inviting more teacher flight, and subsequently a significant decrease in education quality. We cannot stand for this. The community, not just the teachers and their union, must let the District know that we care deeply about our teachers and that we support them in fighting for higher wages and the ability to live in dignity without having to worry about healthcare or living costs.

This Thursday, there is a rally at the Board of Education, next to the High School, and we urge everyone in the community to come to show their support for our teachers!

Isaiah Gutman, Mira Driskell Ezra Baptist, Anthony Fine (Ithaca), Sophia Patt (Danby)