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For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

Thursday, April 26, 2018, a day that lives will be changed!  A day when years of hard work and dedication will finally get noticed.  It is a day that people around the country will be watching in anticipation of what will happen…

Depending on where your thoughts are, April 26 is either the day that the 2018 NFL draft will happen or the day the teachers of Arizona walkout.  A day where college football players, who have worked hard, on and off the field, will get an opportunity to make millions of dollars playing football in the NFL.  For others, April 26 is the day that Arizona teachers will walk out of their schools in an attempt to get a 20% pay increase, without depriving any other organization for all of the hard work and dedication, in and out of the school, they have given to our students over the years. 

I have two boys who are both involved in sports. We work hard, and practice and talk about what it takes to be a college and even professional athlete.  Education is also a high priority in our house.  All three of my kids do well in school and in our house, school sits second behind God, but before sports.  Despite our importance on education, I have never had my children aspire to be a teacher.  My oldest has expressed interest in being a pastor, but I have never said to my children “Someday if you work really hard and are dedicated you might even get to be a teacher!”   It isn’t because we don’t value teachers, we do, my wife works in education, but when we talk about things we want to be, we typically set our goals on things that will make a lot of money and teaching simply doesn’t.

Typically when we read from Matthew “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”, we tie that into our faith.  If we give of our time and efforts to God, that will show that we value God, right?  But doesn’t scripture apply to all aspects of life?  This notion of treasures and hearts also permeates into the secular world.

It is ironic to me that on Thursday night millions of American’s will be sitting around their Televisions watching to see what teams 21 and 22 year old college football players will be drafted to.  The NFL draft has become such a big business that it is not just one day, but three days.  We watch in anticipation to see teams make picks that they hope will make their football team better. Meanwhile, teachers will be out fighting to make a livable wage, and students will be without their teachers.

For a teacher who makes $40,000 a year, a 20% pay increase means they will make $48,000.  Yet the player that gets picked first on Thursday night…he is expected to sign a $30 million dollar contract, (that is equal to the yearly salary of 750 teachers) and the person picked last in the first round will make $9 million (equal to the yearly salary of 225 teachers).  These players, won’t really help our children be better people, they won’t teach the child who will later find the cure for cancer or write our favorite novel.  However, they might help bring a championship home for our team.  A team that we don’t own or receive any profits if they win or lose.  A team that charges $65 a ticket to watch them play and $8 for a drink when I am thirsty. 

My son informed me on Tuesday that it is all about money.  If we just give them more money, it will solve the problem.  I told him that money will help, but that the problem is more than just money, it is where our society places its treasures.  The reality is adding 20%, or even 30% won’t fix the problem overnight, it won’t fix the problem even within the next year because there are fewer and fewer people who are teaching.  They aren’t teaching because a teacher’s salary can no longer support them.  They aren’t teaching because 35 students in a classroom are too many kids for one teacher to oversee.  It is too many kids because they don’t have enough teachers to make the classes smaller. They aren’t teaching, because what was once a highly respected position in our society, has become nothing more than someone to blame when a child doesn’t do their assigned work and fails a test or our state doesn’t rank up to the national standards.

Will money fix the problem?  It can’t hurt, but simply giving a 20% pay increase doesn’t fix the problem it just shifts it.  If Arizona teachers start making more than teachers in New Mexico or Utah, then the best teachers from those states will come here to teach.  Yes that will make Arizona better, but what about those other states?  Essentially that is what is happening to Arizona right now.  The problem isn’t solved, it just makes it someone else’s problem.  Meanwhile, that guy, who got drafted first, oh you remember his name,  umm….wait we have already forgotten it, is still making millions of dollars from a guaranteed deal in his contract and he hasn’t worked in 4 years. 

My dad always tells a story about one of his teachers who turned down a professional baseball deal, so that he could teach.  It wasn’t because he loved teaching so much, it was because as a teacher in the 40's and 50's, he would make about the same teaching as playing professional baseball, and he loved teaching.  Could you imagine?  What would it look like if teachers were celebrated as much as the NFL draft?  What if we followed teachers leaving schools like we do when professional athletes get traded?  What if there were jerseys made of our favorite teachers that we wore around or Under Armour sponsored teachers?  What if instead of signing our kids up for every travel team, and sports camp and telling them that with hard work and dedication they might be a professional athlete; we told our kids with hard work and dedication you might get into the right school; and with that kind of education, you might be able to teach 4th-grade math? 

So where is our treasure?  And where is our heart?  My heart is for educating children not only to know the Lord but to find the cure for a disease, to fight world hunger, to invent the next Instagram.  As Christians, we have to stop pointing fingers and blaming others because we are part of the problem.  James writes “Faith without works is dead.  I will show you my faith, by what I do.  Saying you have faith and doing nothing does not constitute having faith.” As Christians, we are called to move mountains, and not just sit around and talk about it. 

Where is your treasure?  My title says it all.

Frank Harmon
Associate Pastor for YOUTH, CHILDREN, and THEIR FAMILIES