Soap Box Redux
I know, I'm supposed to be on vacation, but as I read through my blogs this evening, someone linked to this rant about the NEA, and well, you all know how I get when someone dogs my people. Here's the response I posted on both the original post and my friend's post that linked to it.
As an NEA member (sorry, ALa), former building representative and executive officer, I object to your classification of NEA members. They are, like any lobbying group, advocating for the well being of its members. The well-being of its members includes not only furthering effective practices, creating accountability in schools, and preparing students for an increasingly technological and global economy, it also includes quality of life issues like health care, job security, and political and ideological mission statements. Public education, unlike many other systems that have large, organized lobbying groups, is not constitutionally protected. There are federal laws (I've read them) defining their scope and sequence, but the system is funded largely on property tax and state revenues, and in times of recession, are forced to make cuts in vital programs. Programs that are reaching students who need extra support outside of the 25-26 student classroom they've been assigned. Programs that reach inner-city children and keep them out of gangs. Programs that foster creativity and exploration of content. What happens is they just focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic, and those three subjects are NOT what is needed to be successful in the new global economy.
I am no longer actively involved in my local union, NOT because I don't believe in its aims, but because my educational career is taking me into the administrative realm, which, incidentally, is not protected by unions, at least in the state where I work. I supervise the teachers of the most needy students in my district, including budget items, and we are working as hard as we can with next to nothing, and being told we're not good enough at every turn, the response to which is to take EVEN MORE MONEY away. NCLB is the biggest danger to public education in this country, not the teacher's union. I don't know a single teacher out there who isn't in favor of high standards, proficient students, and high performing schools. What they aren't in favor of is an unreachable, statistically impossible standard of achievement (I took statistics at the college level--100% achievement cannot be reached in any population), and mandated testing requirements that become more stringent and punitive each year, as well as being drastically underfunded. The federal government has never lived up to its promise to fund special education at 40%, even after increasing funding when GWB was re-elected in 2004.
I submit to you, those of you who call us ideologues, to look at the comments made by former Secretary Paige, when he referred to NEA members as "terrorists". Not only was that offensive, it is so far off the mark as to be considered libelous. Teachers, whether we agree politically with our government or not, are still mandated to follow its decrees, or lose our jobs. Yes, we can lose our jobs. All collective bargaining agreements carry procedures to remove teachers for a variety of reasons, insubordination being one of them. It has to be proven, though.
Most teachers in this country are working very hard to make their students successful. Most teachers in this country would like education to NOT be a political battle, but it is, and we did not make it so. The beauty and the burden of public education is that we take all comers. Much like the Statue of Liberty, "give us your poor, your tired, your hungry" as well as your privileged, intelligent, and arrogant, and help us give them equal opportunity at this country's great promise. Fund us appropriately, give us good working conditions, and compensate us for our time--which goes well beyond 9-3 and into the summer months--competitvely and comparably to our fellow workers with similar education and training, and we'll have no more quarrel.
As I said to my friend, peace. No personal insults being thrown around, just one woman's opinion.