We should do more than just say ‘thanks’

Published 6:37 pm Monday, February 3, 2014

Last week, winter weather took our state by storm. Parents were stranded at work, motorists stranded on the roadways and children stranded at school.  Across the south, people walked miles in the snow to get home while others slept in the aisles of stores or on the floors of their offices.

Despite terrible weather conditions, friends and neighbors went above and beyond to help make sure everyone was home safely — people with four-wheel drive drove neighbors home and pulled vehicles out of ditches. Others offered food, beverages and a place to stay well into the night.

But amidst all of this chaos, 11,000 students spent the night at school Tuesday night. Hundreds more were still at school on Wednesday afternoon. Teachers and support staff stayed with our children and kept them safe, warm and fed while their parents were unable to get to them. Teachers, administrators and support staff sacrificed time with their own families to protect ours.

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Amidst all of this chaos, first responders worked around the clock to get people home safely and mitigate the storm damage. Police, firefighters, paramedics and nurses took on double and triple shifts to take care of our loved ones during a time of crisis.

A doctor walked miles in the snow to perform a life-saving surgery, a 911 operator talked a husband through delivering his baby in a traffic jam, and hundreds of police officers and firefighters saved stranded motorists from walking home in the snow and ice.

The Republican supermajority was quick to pass a resolution thanking educators and first responders for their service, but I think we can do more than put words on a page.

Teachers and state employees are making less today than they were two years ago, yet they’re being asked to do so much more with fewer resources.

The 2 percent pay raise teachers received last year wasn’t much of a raise — it merely put back some of the 2.5 percent we cut from their pay in 2011 and 2012.

The Republicans know it’s an election year, so they’re not going to speak out against a pay raise. They’re promising two percent for educators and four percent for state employees if they can find the money.

I think we can do better.

Our educators and state employees deserve a six percent cost-of-living pay increase. They deserve to be paid like the dedicated professionals they are, not treated like a discretionary line item in the state budgets.

They have proven they are committed to our safety and wellbeing — it’s time we commit to theirs.