« PreviousContinue »
It is a day of big things. It is preeminently a day when those who are serving the state must be granted the right of way. The teachers of the country are not only serving the state now; they have been serving it all their lives. They are the captains of the army of understanding: not alone of that technical understanding upon which military victory depends, but of that larger human understanding upon which depends the whole hope and future of the world. If we spend billions to save the world, can we not spend millions to make the world worth saving? If we pour forth our treasure without stint to those who shape our steel and iron, can we not grant at least a living wage to those who are molding our life itself? The nation must come to the rescue of its schools. For a nation without education is a coast without a lighthouse.
TEACHERS' SALARIES AND THE COST OF LIVING, 1918
INCREASE IN THE COST OF LIVING In 1913 the Committee of the National Education Association on Teachers' Salaries, Tenure, and Pensions publisht an extended report which subsequently has been widely circulated and effectively used thruout the country. The last year for which figures were obtainable at the time of the completion of this report was 1911. From the latter year until near the end of 1915 there was a slow upward movement of prices, both wholesale and retail, in the United States. So gradual was this movement, however, that it did not justify any large revision of the conclusions reached in the report of 1913. During the years 1916 and 1917, however, there has occurred an extremely rapid rise of prices, a rise so great and so sudden that it makes imperative a new and thorogoing study of the whole situation as it affects the teachers of the country.
The skyrocketing of prices which we are now experiencing is graphically presented in Chart I,' herewith, which shows the movement in the wholesale market of the United States from 1890 to 1917 inclusive. From 1890 to 1897 prices declined. Between the latter low-level year and 1911, the last year for which figures were available when our earlier report was prepared, there was an increase of 44. I per cent in wholesale prices. The year 1912 showed an increase of 6.5 per cent over 1911, but during the years 1913 and 1914 wholesale prices actually declined slightly. For 1915 they were still slightly lower than for 1912. But the two succeeding years show an upward rush that dwarfs all movements recorded during the whole period of twenty-seven years. To illustrate: From 1897, the year of lowest prices, to 1915, wholesale prices advanst 51.6 per cent, an average of less than 3 per cent a year. During the two years from 1915 to 1917 alone they advanst 42.8 per cent, an average of 21.4 per cent a year. the matter in another way, the upward movement of prices has been more
* This chart brings down to date the diagram presented on p. 5, National Education Association Repo on Salaries and Cost of Living, 1913.
To put than seven times as rapid during the last two years as it was during the preceding eighteen years of increasing wholesale quotations. The fact may seem astounding, but it is none the less true that wholesale prices in the United States were more than two and one-half times, exactly 2.65, higher in 1917 than they were twenty years earlier.
From the point of view of the teacher the significance of these figures is unmistakable. Taking the country as a whole, strenuous efforts were necessary to keep salaries advancing as rapidly as prices during the period of comparatively slow upward movement. Not always indeed was the advance of income kept even with the necessary increase of expenditure. But to meet an upward rush so rapid as that from the beginning of 1916 on, it is manifest that almost superhuman efforts must be put forth. It was hard to climb to the summit of the Pelion of high prices reacht in the years 1911 to 1915. Now suddenly Ossa has been heapt upon Pelion, and the teachers of the country must begin a vastly more difficult climb.
Some further analysis of the developments of the last two years is necessary. First, it may be noted that figures dealing with retail prices confirm
the observations made with regard to wholesale prices during this period. Thus in the case of the retail prices of twenty-two principal articles of food, the general level for December, 1917, as shown by the figures of the United States Bureau of Labor," is 50 per cent higher than for December, 1915.
• These statements are based upon figures presented by the monthly review, February, 1918, of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, (see Chart II). The March number of this review shows that on January 15, 1918, the retail price of food had made a further increase above the level for December 15, 1917, of 2 per cent.
Chart III shows in detail the movement of wholesale prices by months from January, 1913, to December, 1917. The figures upon which it is based cover 296 commodities of all kinds, including farm products, food, cloths and clothing, fuel and lighting, metals and metal products, lumber
and building materials, drugs and chemicals, house-furnishing goods, and miscellaneous articles. An increase of the cost of such basic materials must of course be reflected in the retail prices of all commodities derived from them. The general level of wholesale prices is shown by these figures of the Bureau of Labor to be not less than 72 per cent higher in December, 1917, than in December, 1915.
“This increase (of wholesale prices) has been particularly great,” according to the Bureau of Labor, "among farm products, foods, clothing, metal products, drugs, and chemicals”—all articles, with the exception of metal products, which enter largely into the teacher's budget. Some of
the details of the movements of wholesale prices by special groups of commodities are shown in Charts IV and V. Thus from December, 1915, to December, 1917, lumber and building materials advanst 39. I per cent, fuel and lighting 59.3 per cent, food 66.6 per cent, house furnishings 73.2 per cent, cloths and clothing 92.5 per cent, and farm products, 98.1 per cent.