When I was in forth grade, our teacher, Mrs. Hite, used to crack us over the head with her yard stick. She was undoubtedly old school, and this was in Louisiana during the 1980s when corporal punishment was the culture. Wow! How things have changed. Now it’s the teachers receiving the beatings.
Just this month, teachers’ pay was axed three percent, or viewed another way, a three percent tax increase was forced upon them. Of course, we didn’t hear much about it in the corporate media. Now, just compare that to the vehemently opposed, and well-covered 0.4 percent tax increase Michigan workers endured several years ago. Where’s the balance?
Growing up, teachers were well-respected professionals who inspired us in one way or another. Unfortunately, due to the right wing’s well financed, constant barrage of attacks on professional educators, public opinion seems to be swaying towards the conservatives’ goal of tearing down the public education system. That means breaking the back of the Michigan Education Association.
This is just a microcosm of conservatives’ ultimate goal: privatization of all public sectors and the commons. But back to our Michigan teachers and the three percent tax increase forced upon them by the legislature—the same Republican Senate which voted down a bill to reduce its plush salaries and benefits, and the same legislature proposing teachers take another hit by paying 20 percent of their healthcare costs, a measure that strips them of negotiations.
Listening to right wing pundits who speak as though they’re well versed in educational issues, have spent many hours in an actual classroom and are in the trenches of K-12 education, you’d be half tempted to support their remedies. Actually, these “experts,” from such corporate-funded think tanks like the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy, are nothing more than lapdogs for the macro agenda mentioned above.
In a nutshell, the idea implemented through former-President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation is to demand pubic schools produce yearly improvements in reading, math and English.
However, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, who served under Republican and Democratic presidents and self-avowed conservative and early architect for market-based education, has realized not only did she get it wrong, the current educational path we’re on will destroy public education beginning in 2014.
Beginning that year, if children in public schools fail to reach a 100 percent proficiency standard in subjects such as reading, the schools will be defunded and eventually closed. This will lead to our public dollars being funneled to Wall Street-backed private and charter schools.
And alas, the picture is clearer. It’s not about a well-educated population, it’s about mining the last public sector—public education—for as much as Wall Street investors can squeeze from it before it too, collapses. It need not be said how devastating this well be on the United States. After all, Bill Gates wouldn’t be a billionaire if most the population couldn’t read.
So when we hear the right wing echo chamber crank out its rhetoric about the MEA and thus our professional, hard-working teachers as the root cause of Michigan’s educational woes, I suggest you simply take a closer look.
One of conservatives’ favorite teacher-bashing tools is to constantly refer to the failing Detroit Public Schools district. However, they conveniently omit the many other districts that graduate more than 90 percent of their classes.
Should we consider consolidating some smaller districts? Absolutely. Metro Times and Michigan Public Radio contributor Jack Lessenberry suggested raising the beer tax by two cents a bottle to help fund schools. After all, beer taxes haven’t been touched since 1966 – and that was to lower them!
Most teachers are dedicated, hard-working professionals performing a vital public service and receive nowhere near what they deserve. After all, most citizens don’t know teachers must constantly attend more and more expensive college classes to retain their jobs. How much education are legislators and politicians required to receive and retain?
Judging by politicians’ treatment of teachers lately, two thoughts come to mind: First, they don’t attain much education and second, perhaps it’s them who should be receiving the yardstick over the head.
Thank you to all the hard-working, dedicated professional Michigan educators. I know it’s very difficult work, but you are all providing a vital community service.