In response to a June 15 column (“Teachers deserve respect”) by Sammy DeMarco, as an educator and parent, I am concerned about the negative attitudes held by some about public education and educators. It is increasingly frustrating to listen to our elected officials spout data and numbers about how much teachers make per hour, what our salaries should be and how we are given far more benefits than other professions when their “facts” are based on creative math and blatant lies to mislead the general public.
I hope that we, as former students, remember the teachers who made a difference in our lives. Think of them and ask yourself whether you want our educational system to attract that level of quality teacher or whether we want the teacher you remember as being checked-out, lacking in knowledge and uncaring. As our state begins to cut salaries, benefits and bargaining rights, so too will we cut the interest and appeal for our high quality youth to decide to become teachers.
When teachers can no longer afford to raise their families and retire before they are 80, the highly educated, smart and savvy people we want to attract will no longer view the lower pay and ongoing educational requirements, which must be paid for by themselves, and the hours of work outside of the school day as a viable option for a fulfilling career. Not to mention the frustration of feeling the need to defend the importance and value of the profession and all that educators do.
Think of your children and the teachers you want them to be inspired by. Your decisions every day, from talking to others about your public schools and educators to entering the polling booth to cast your vote can really make a difference.
We are not powerless—-we are the ones with the power. We just have to start by sharing with our elected state officials what our priorities are. Essentially, we need to let them know President Truman’s famous phrase, “the buck stops here,” and we will not allow them to push their political agendas of a right-to-work state or the elimination of public education where only the rich can get a quality education. We need to let them know that we will not allow them to rob educational funding to pay for their own inability to balance the state budget and fund their pet projects.
Perhaps they should replicate what many of us have had to do and start looking at their own budgets and spending habits. Monthly expense accounts, state-funded cars, travel expense accounts, healthcare for life after one short term, regular pay increases, etc. seem like a really good place to not only start but to set an example of what a true public servant values and prioritizes.
How can they morally and ethically push this agenda at the expense of our children and our state? Republicans and Democrats need to think long and hard about this—but I have found they “think” clearer when they have their constituents calling, writing, or emailing them with opinions and concerns directly. So, please, for our children, let them know your concerns. Question their easily spouted “facts” and have confidence that your voice will make a difference—don’t let the voices of Wall Street and corporate greed be their sole influence.