Teachers Under Attack
by Felix Perez
In a few weeks, teachers will start a new semester. There’ll be new students and ideas, lesson plans, schedules and all the other pieces that go into making a school year.
Added to their plates, however, will be a serious and growing concern: the demonization in state after state of teachers and other school employees to silence their voices in the debate on how to improve America’s public schools.
If teachers in your state haven’t been attacked yet, they probably will soon. Now is the time to take preventive action. When anti-educator lobbyists knock on your legislators’ doors, telling them educators put their own interests above students’, you want your legislators to say, “You’re nuts!”
You can stop the attacks. Contact your state legislators. Use your own personal stories to explain the important role teachers play in your students’ lives. Tell them teachers should not be used as scapegoats but instead must be part of any discussion on how to improve our schools.
Everyone it seems, whether or not they have teaching experience or an education background, knows how teachers should do their jobs, be evaluated and paid. Some proposals are based on valid research, but increasingly governors and state elected officials are pushing legislation and policies that paint teachers as obstacles that should be removed from decisions involving what goes on in the classroom.
Cast by some politicians as the enemy standing in the way of improving schools, teachers have become the target of choice in an all-out war. These politicians are using the current budget crises as an opportunity to turn public opinion against teachers and other school employees ― and public education ― and silence them on any issue concerning public schools, all in the name of education reform.
Teachers understand what it takes for a student to succeed. They choose to teach, not because of the pay or to receive accolades, but because they believe that every student is unique and has something to offer. That’s why they pay for school supplies with their own money, spend extra time with students who need additional attention, volunteer at after-school events, and grade papers and create lesson plans at night and on weekends.
Yet politicians are going out of their way to paint teachers and education support professionals as uncaring and incompetent. Some examples include:
- The outgoing Alabama governor successfully pushed legislation through the state legislature on December 15 that makes it a crime for education employees who have their dues deducted from their paychecks to engage in any political activity. The penalty is imprisonment and fines
- The incoming governor of Wisconsin and the governor of Indiana have called for rescinding or limiting the right of teachers and other public service employees to have a say in the terms and conditions of their jobs.
- The outgoing Minnesota governor has issued a call for an all-out confrontation with teachers and other public service workers that would reduce their pay and weaken their retirement security.
- The Oklahoma legislature is expected to take up legislation that would weaken a teacher’s right not to be fired without a reason, otherwise known as due process.
So get to know your state legislators. Call them, send them letters and news stories that capture the spirit of your school, go see them. Tell them about your life and the lives of your students or how a teacher has gone the extra step to reach out to your child.
What are the problems you face and the rewards you gain, day after day, in helping your students achieve and grow up to become self-reliant, well-prepared adults?
It’s easy for unprincipled and uninformed politicians to knock down straw men. It’s much harder to distort the truth with a legislator who knows real teachers and has visited real schools.
Legislators need to hear real-life stories from your school — facts can be ignored but stories reach the heart.