The educator-activist wish list for 2013


By Amanda Litvinov

Class size, staffing, student health, the condition of school buildings—legislation can directly affect education in so many ways. We asked educators and other public school advocates what they wish lawmakers would do this year to make a positive impact on students’ lives and the education profession. They came up with quite a list! Below is just a sampling of the responses we received.

If you’d like to add something, please leave a comment at the end.


Please avoid any further cuts to education funding. How can we ensure safety, security, and support for our kids with fewer personnel? In addition, we need to have funded federal mandates in place to provide mental illness support and therapeutic care in all of our schools. Kids need to know they are loved and supported. —Colleen M., Ohio


Find the $25 million needed to keep art and music in elementary school. Volusia County is looking at dropping 500 teachers next year.—Catie T., Florida


Lower class size!! We can’t really know 40 kids!! It matters. —Carrie B., California


Understand that all kids aren’t at the same place at the same time. Stop all of the standardized testing. We are ruining our children with pressure to learn age-inappropriate material. Fund education, and most important, hire more teachers and respect them. —Becky V., Texas


1. More funding. 2. Cut red tape so teachers can TEACH without having to stress about the constant changing curriculum. 3. Keep salad bars in every school with healthy fruits and veggies. 4. Keep class sizes small, especially in elementary schools.  —Kathleen W., Michigan


I wish for full funding of IDEA. —Jen M., California


No pot holes get repaired until EVERY child has all the books, materials, desks, teachers, and classroom required to provide a quality learning experience. —Buzz M., Virginia


I wish policymakers would include educators in the discussion. I wish public education would be supported and respected. I wish that ALEC, et. al., would quit spending money to vilify public educators. I wish legislators would look seriously at real data with proven track records and quit experimenting with our kids. Include those knowledgeable in the field…and not just those trying to profit from our students. —Jane S., Michigan


Limit class size so that educators can spend more time with each child. So much can be learned about each child, which will in turn help him. —Barbara M., Pennsylvania


Get rid of my 9 furlough days. —Lisa C., Georgia


The condition of the school is as important as class size and teacher salary. It tells the student that the community cares. You would not want to live in a dirty, ill-kept house and we cannot expect students to perform well in schools that are dirty and unkempt. —Cheryl B., California


Support for vocational and Career and Technical Education programs–it’s time to put the nation to work. Let’s give our kids some marketable skills! —Shane B., Texas


Teachers have been expected to do more with less with no pay raise in 5 years. I recently finished my master’s but had to refinance my home to pay for it. It will take over four years for me to recoup that money in my salary!!! Something needs to be changed with teacher pay!!! Many great teachers are leaving the profession.  —Lisa R., Virginia


Speak up for the importance of early childhood education! The first five years are critical! Children with a strong self-awareness with a foundation of emotional/social, communication and critical thinking skills will be capable of more than academic success…they will be able to think for themselves!—Leslie K., North Carolina


Make college affordable! —Rosy S., California


Stop all the insanely expensive annual testing and shift those dollars toward social workers and school psychologists who have time to see kids and not just do reams of paperwork… for a start. —Lynne R., Colorado


Reader Comments

  1. If there are any more cuts to be made to education do it at the absolute top level. A lot of our superintendents, board members etc. are doing far little and make waaay too much. Also send education representatives to go see how other states are funding and running their education systems. Take those ideas and bring them here!

  2. We have become jokes. Education has lost its value to most. Teachers are laughing-stocks, and the kids SUFFER the most. SAD.

  3. This is the way it is. Everyone has been in a classroom. Most people think they know about what a classroom needs and doesn’t need. It is VERY different being on the other side of the desk!

    If legislators think they know what is best by cutting funding, reducing the number of teachers, making class sizes so large, and not supplying teachers with needed teaching items, stick the legislators in the classrooms for a month and let them deal with the classrooms…. especially where it is inner-city or close to it. Give the legislators no help from any principal, superintendent, school board, and state and federal governments. If the legislators makes one false move that isn’t to the liking of students, let them have parents in their faces about being sued. Many of our teachers are in a mess!!! They do not get backup so they can have an orderly classroom in order to teach. How does anyone expect children to learn if there is no help to get a good learning environment? Teachers do not possess MAGIC!

    I have taught in situations where children have thrown desks and chairs across a classroom. Yes, these children were emotionally disturbed and in special needs classrooms. Other teachers had to take these children during the day, also. Try and figure out what a teacher is to do about situations like that. Teachers need help. They do not need legislators throwing a ton of children in a classroom, locking the door, and throwing away the key… so to speak.

    I get so tired of seeing Presidents, legislators, and so on go into schools and getting their pictures taken. It is picture-perfect when they go in. So many, many teachers do not have classrooms like this. The truth needs to be told about the lack of support teachers get from above. AND please ask the educators what they would suggest. They are generally the last ones to be asked anything.

    The next time someone tells a teacher what they need, instead of asking the teacher….. ask them these questions?

    Would you like to babysit for 35 children all day long every single day? And while you are babysitting, would you teach them the information they need to compete to get a job in this complicated, high-tech world? While you are trying to teach, what do you do with trouble makers in the classroom that make it practically impossible to teach. Where do you go to get help to make a classroom a safe, conducive place in order to learn? How do we stop all forms of bullying so our students feel safe and can attend to the matter of learning?

    The fastest way to turn a first-rate country into a third world country is to degrade the educational process. Education is our key to success! This is the backbone of a first-rate nation!!!

  4. Since politicians with no educational training made the decision to intervene into education, I believe it is only right that each should be held accountable for the students success/non success of students in their home districts.

  5. The best change that could be made for public education is to get rid of all standardized testing (incredibly expensive and not improving student learning) and make a change that does not cost any money. If all administrators (including counselors) would have to be classroom teachers for 10 years as part of their certification requirement, student learning would improve because they would understand the importance of all of the other items being listed.

  6. I think it would be beneficial for our elected officials to come to our schools preferably on typical low-profile days. To walk a mile in our shoes would hopefully bring enlightenment to our daily plight. An opportunity to see the total picture without fanfare is rare, yet needed.

  7. Along with the other suggestions: Every educator, including principals, to be thoroughly trained in Brain Research and Brain Based Learning. It is the basis of education and reveals the the errors and damage of the “testing culture”. When teachers know the principals of this, they are more able to have a strong voice based on true science of learning. In addition, they are more able to explain this to parents, who have been very confused and manipulated to think that that purpose of going to school is for their kids to do well on tests.

  8. Education funding should be an issue that can bring all of us together. We can accomplish a great deal by working together to see that education is fully funded – by Capitol Hill, our state capitals, and our communities.
    A partisan issue it is not.

  9. We have so many problems that are being created by the large class sizes: High drop out rates, especially among special education students, crime, truancy, poor performance scores, especially as compared to other developed countries, bullying, cyber bullying and cyber baiting, the list goes on….If we cannot address regular education class sizes and case load sizes for special education teachers (these are ridiculously high in my own district, our special education teachers only have time for paperwork, not for teaching) we will never be able to turn around this system.

  10. I would like to see full funding of IDEA with more money available for meeting technology needs of individual students. I fought 2 years, following another teacher’s efforts before that, to get one very restricted computer for a student with cerebral palsy who has the cognitive ability to communicate but is limited by physical disability from writing on her own. Already she is growing and demanding more for herself but she has only six months of services left. But this is only one of many students who could benefit from technological advances. Meeting students needs should be both possible and quicker without taking away from general education funding. Many students with disabilities can become productive adults with some individualized supports but funding is so inequitably distributed that poor districts like mine have little to offer. Many of these students who do not receive proper supports go into adult programs with very little opportunity to become independent to any degree or to become self-supporting.

  11. My students are not test scores! We spend too much time and money on standardized testing which tells me NOTHING about the child or what they have truly learned. The only reason I look at test scores is when I have to fill out paperwork that requires it. I prefer to get to know mu students personally and gear their goals to what they need. When I give a test or quiz, I look through them and go over concepts again that students had trouble with. They are people, not guinea pigs!

    1. AMEN! As a classroom teacher and now counselor you could not have said it better! I have to fight to get my students any kind of help. “Data” is demanded as the only info valid for any decisions. I used to throw away papers my students did with a sub because if I did not watch them doing it – it gave me no information.

  12. Please stop wasting money on standardized tests and lower class sizes in primary grades to the following in California:
    20 inpre-K, kindergarten and first grade
    24 in second grade
    26 in third grade
    32 in fourth through sixth grade

    Allow children who need early interventions to get early interventions without the red tape invlolved to qualify for special education. Let them qualify early, in kindergarten, so that an early intervention might work. Then exit the children who benefited from an early intervention. The special education teachers need to be teaching instead of testing and writing 20 to 30 page reports. They are in endless meetings. The parents shouldn’t have to hire advocates to get meaningful testing and interventions for their children. It seems like we had small class sizes and we integrated lots of special needs students in the regular classroom, but when class sizes went up to 32 and 36, the special needs students are no longer getting the attention they need. The teachers are only human and cannot reasonably meet the needs of every student with a large class size.

    I like the new National Standards, however, I think we are spending too much money on the development of the testing. It’s innovative and involves technology, but when it comes to testing thinking, just ask the teacher how the child is doing on benchmark tests that may not require a computer. It would save a lot of money until our deficit is paid off. Just like the lesson in Skyfall, the most recent 007 movie, sometimes the old ways work best. The testing budget needs to be spent on qualified professionals in the classrooms with reasonable class sizes all the way through community college.

    And finally, a public education is for all children. If you want your child to go to a private school, then pay for it. That is why it is called a “private” school. I also think the charter schools get a lot of undeserved political positive hype. As far as I’m concerned every school is a charter school with innovative educators who are highly trained and effective. The charter schools are just taking money from the public schools. It seems like the charter schools were “created” just to make public schools look bad in the public eye. Did some politians want the public not to trust the public schools, and think that a “charter” school is somehow magically betterz…so much better that you would want a voucher for your child to attend a magical charter school? I work with the most educated, talented, state of the art teachers you’d ever want to meet, and we proudly teach in a public school.
    Thanks for asking those of us in the trenches.

  13. Every student deserves the many educational and social/emotional advantages proven to be provided by SMALLER CLASS SIZE, especially in elementary school.

  14. Please stop treating America’s children as commodities to be exploited for profit. Whether it be the multi-billion dollar a year business of standardized testing, the voucher scams, or the over-crowded classrooms justified by staffing cuts resulting from legislative funding cuts to education, the bottom line is the drive to reap “private profit” from public tax dollars in the name of education. Wake-up America! Parent and teachers are talking about the well-being of children. The experts are discussing the strategies of profit.

  15. A retirement pension that keeps up with inflation so my family and former students don’t have to support me for the rest of my life.

  16. Reduced class size is a must! After 33 years teaching HS history, government and economics, never has more been required of students and thus teachers. I now have 190 students to teach, reach, assess and inspire. From 1979 to 2009, I had mid-20’s in most classes. Thus it was possible to teach each student. Now, with 10 more students per class times 6 classes, class is now an absurd educational environment, where you spend 10 to 15 minutes more per class, managing student misbehavior. Almost all our in class aides are gone. Never, in 33 years, have their been fewer adults in our building. Adults in the building equate to student opportunities, or like now, a huge reduction in student opportunity to learn! This isn’t just sad, it is bad for national security, horrible for our collective economic futures and has created a much more hostile population. You get what you pay for, not a penny more. Our culture has made a value judgment, that one generation or two, will have many more educational opportunities than our children and grandchildren. Our only hope is to downsize the global empire and all of us go back to the Clinton tax rates, when our nation enjoyed surpluses. Not just for the rich to pay Clinton era rates, but all tax payers! We Only Get , What We’re Willing To Pay! I am on my 3rd straight school year with a pay cut, by cutting 10 school days for the last three years. We have the shortest school year in the industrialized world. That’s just plain embarrassing to watch the downsizing of our own children. Just try raising standards, with the fewest adults in in the building.

  17. Every lawmaker needs to spend time in the classroom in a disadvantaged school to see the struggles the teachers go through trying to teach with limited resources, oversized classes, and no parental support. They also need to view the documentary “American Teacher” and pay attention to what the teachers are facing every day. As a nation, we need to wake up and realize that cutting educational funding is affecting our children now and our nation as a whole in the future.

  18. Reform Charter school laws. Like internet business, charter schools are no longer a fledgling idea that needs coddling and support from legislation that gives them advantages over regular public schools. Limit the percentage of charter schools per district so they don’t make the public system lose so much attendance/revenue that it puts the whole system at risk. Close charters that don’t meet standards. Hold charter schools to the same standards as public schools. If they are public, they need to take every student. Charters need to pay their fair share of the infrastructure that supports them – facilities maintenance, special ed costs, paying overhead.

  19. We live in the single richest country in the world. It is not that there is not enough money, it is that we don’t choose children as a priority. This says a tremendous amount about our culture.

  20. Here in California, funding for students is not equitable. I imagine that goes for most of the rest of the country. My dream is that every student, in every locale be funded equally with public funds. Localities, families and benefactors are more than welcome to provide additional private funding. Every child has a right to a FREE, public education and that right should extend through high school and become affordable into college.

  21. If they wanted to improve the economy this is just a suggestion. So many people who would be good teachers never get a chance. Institute a three year program where as many teachers as possible are hired. At the end of three years they will have to pick and choose. Those who do not make the cut, help them to find other jobs. Those hired will also be able to decide if teaching is really for them This will allow school districts to try out more teachers. Teachers also spend money especially on their classrooms. This is better then unemployment and charter schools that pay by the hour and do not have the equipment or other supplies either. We need to save our public education. Better to spend on schools then prisons.

  22. As a former teacher and a parent of two children with invisible disabilities, I would love it if the federal government would look at virtual education as an alternative to helping students with disabilities, that are unable to be successful within the school environment, due to the lack of support and services.

    I also strongly believe that education needs to start looking at children’s social/emotional well being as important and their academic performance. As an educational system, we have moved away from the importance of social interaction and emotional well being to test scores, and children, along with their families, are suffering as a result.

    Teachers need support to work with the diverse population of students they have in their classrooms, and focusing only on the test scores isn’t the answer. So many children with invisible disabilities are missing out on wonderful opportunities because education focuses on their behavior, rather than looking at what is neurologically causing the behavior, ending in secondary disabilities due to their constant inability to meet the unrealistic demands the educational environment places on them.

    I strongly believe that all children have gifts and talents, and if education would look at what those strengths are and support them, our children’s future would be filled with success and accomplishment, versus secondary disabilities and failure.

  23. I wish everyone involved in making laws that teachers are subjected to follow, would spend one day in an actual classroom. I want legislators to observe classes like my 3rd grade students have to do benchmark reading tests (with tiny type) on a computer that lasts for 1 and 1/2 hours – followed by another day of 1 and 1/2 hour testing of math – not to mention the numerous other progress monitoring, state-mandated tests that are required. My wishes are to fix the benchmark tests to a reasonable length, get rid of several other tests, go back to pencil and paper, or provide every student with a computer so they can practice skills that model the way they will be tested.
    ~ Carly, North Carolina

  24. Make NCLB law be about “not leaving children behind” instead of being about teaching a standardized test. Let’s improve ‘how’ we teach – not what we teach and then test it. Let’s find ways that use individual learner strengths and stop trying to fit all the square pegs into round holes. Let’s make every classroom a fun learning environment in which all children, regardless of race, gender, disability, income levels, etc. can inclusively learn and thrive.

  25. We need more ability through more time and resources, to create relationships with students and not spend our energies and resources on paperwork, evaluations and ever-changing standards and assessment schedules. Low income students and students with disabilities need more instructional and recreational resources! Giving them a stronger foundation of education, social demands and meaningful experiences is the best way to make them successful in life. Making them successful in life makes our world a better place.

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