Mike and Mike this morning featured the story of Kevin Zelko. Zelko is a 38-year old elementary school special education teacher in Seattle. He also works part-time selling beer at Seahawks games. In fact, he did well enough doing so that he wanted to buy Seahawks jerseys for some of his students, since many can’t afford the $45 price tag. The story picked up momentum and a GoFundMe campaign followed, which raised $25,000 and allowed Zelko to buy a jersey for all 450 students in the school. I caught the tail-end of the segment, during which Mike and Mike noted several times that we pay our teachers such lousy salaries that they have to take part time work (Washington state has seen a steady dip in relative teacher pay over time and the state supreme court ruled in 2012 that, due cuts to the budget, the state was no longer meeting its minimal constitutional obligation to educate Washington students).
What Zelko did was, of course, nothing but admirable. But this story bugged me. A school filled with kids of limited means – sixty percent received free or reduced school lunch because they are poor; a teacher working an extra part-time job. A state that has made significant cuts to services for the most needy in recent years. And a $25,000 payout to a wealthy entity – the Seattle Seahawks – who had their current stadium built with substantial public funding. The Seahawks, as a reminder, are owned by one Paul Allen, whose net worth is an estimated $16 billion. So, to recap, a well-meaning teacher works his ass off to buy jerseys for disadvantaged kids whose access to services has been reduced in a state that saw fit to massively subsidize one of America’s richest men, whose pockets will be further lined by the jersey purchase.
21st century America, ladies and gentlemen.
If you want to argue that $25,000 is just a pittance to Paul Allen, then why doesn’t he or the non-profit, tax exempt NFL pay for the jerseys? Hell, Allen could buy a jersey for every Seattle student on free or reduced lunch for a total cost of about $1 million, which would represent about 1/16,000th of his total wealth.
Where’s that blood pressure medication….