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Open Letter To The Public Education Budget Cutters

March 14, 2011

Dear Politician or Policy-Maker:

OK, I get it.   You read stories about incompetent teachers being paid to do nothing and teachers unions preventing any improvement.  You are embarrassed because students in Slovenia scored higher than U.S. students on an international multiple choice math exam.  Even though you have probably never been a teacher and it has been years since you have spent any meaningful time in a classroom, you believe that teaching really can’t be that challenging.  And, since everyone is saying that our public education system is “broken,” it must be.

On the other hand, however, because most of you don’t send your own children to a failing school, any personal experiences you have had with public education have been largely positive.  Sure, there were times when you thought your child’s project deserved an A instead of the B.  There was also the season when the coach who you thought clearly didn’t know what he was doing started someone’s else’s son at shortstop.  But, all in all, the teachers were more than competent and your child knew much more at the end of the school year than at the beginning.  Yet, since everyone is saying that our public education system is “broken,” it must be.

And, since your constituents say that their taxes are too high, you need to make cuts somewhere.

But, what exactly are you trying to achieve by cutting funding for public education?

Is it to punish something or someone?

Is it because there is rampant waste in the public education system?

Is it because teachers are making too much money or their benefits are too high?

Is it because the entire public education system is “broken”?

If so, I’m missing the logic or supporting data for these positions.  How is even less support for public education and teachers going to produce better results?

I personally believe that teaching is the most important profession in our nation.  I use the word “profession” intentionally because many people apparently do not consider teaching a profession.  You may think that accountants, architects, doctors, dentists, lawyers, CEOs, and even politicians or policy wonks like you are more vital to our democracy.  In your mind, they must be because that is what conventional society has decreed and, besides, they make more money.  I disagree with this false and destructive assessment.  No other profession gives more and takes less than teaching.  However, if you keep creating a climate where teachers are verbally and financially assaulted every inch of the way, you may see a real “broken” system real soon.  How are you planning to convince the best and brightest of our future generations to enter teaching if the class sizes increase, the paychecks and benefits decrease, there is little or no professional development, pink slips are routinely given, and there are other jobs with comparable or better compensation that do not have to endure the constant scrutiny of special interest groups and self-anointed experts like you?

We definitely need more vision and innovative programs to improve those schools that are in trouble.  The success of the students at my school, who all live below the poverty line, is proof that such vision and innovation can and do make a difference.  Schools in trouble deserve immediate, bold, and surgically precise help.  But, it is time to tone down the largely uninformed noise about a complete education system that is “broken.”  It is time to stress and build on the positive; to recognize the excellence that is taking place in most classrooms throughout our nation.  It is time to start treating teachers like valued professional partners, not targets.  It is time to take a courageous stand against rumors, innuendo, and rhetoric.  It is time to support, not attack, public education.

Sincerely,

Your Local Teacher

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