Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Blame the teachers crowd


by Randi Weingarten 
The blame-the-teacher crowd would have Americans believe that there is only one choice when it comes to public education: either you’re for students, or you’re for teachers.
That is a bogus choice.
When a school is good for the kids, it’s also good for the teachers, and vice versa. And if our leaders fail to recognize this, and fail to create a positive vision for our schools, we must lead the way.
Excerpts.
I never thought I’d see the superintendent of a major city’s public school system call public education, and I’m quoting here: “crappy.”
I never thought I’d open a major newspaper to see us described as (again I’m quoting): “selfinterested adults trying to deny poor parents choice for their children.”
I might have expected to hear the House Republican Leader say that preventing teacher layoffs is a scheme to, quote, “Pad the education bureaucracy.”
But I never thought I’d see a Democratic president, whom we helped elect, and his education secretary applaud the mass firing of 89 teachers and staff in Central Falls, R.I., when not a single one of the teachers ever received an unsatisfactory evaluation.

And I never thought that I’d see a documentary film about helping disadvantaged children in which the villain wasn’t crumbling schools, or grinding poverty, or the lack of a curriculum, or overcrowded classrooms, or the total failure of No Child Left Behind.
No, the villain was us.

Look, I can take it. It’s part of my job.
But taking abuse shouldn’t be in the job description of more than 3 million public school
teachers who work hard every day to do right by their students.
Brothers and sisters, never before have I seen such attacks on public employees, teachers and the unions that represent them.
Never before have I seen so few attack so many, so harshly, for doing so much—often with so little.
I don’t know if I should call the people attacking us, quote, “reformers,” as they like to be
known—or performers, which might be more accurate. Because many of them seem more interested in engaging in political theater than constructive conversation.
So I’ll just call them the “blame-the-teacher crowd,” and even though many of them have set their sights on all public institutions, I will focus on the institution that has gotten the most abuse—public education.
The blame-the-teacher crowd would have Americans believe that there is only one choice when it comes to public education: either you’re for students, or you’re for teachers.
That is a bogus choice.
When a school is good for the kids, it’s also good for the teachers, and vice versa. And if our leaders fail to recognize this, and fail to create a positive vision for our schools, we must lead the way.
II. INCONVENIENT TRUTHS
I know of no other institution that has lifted up so many, so advanced our democratic principles, and instilled in all of us something beyond the three Rs—a limitless sense of possibility.
That sense of possibility is under assault as never before. Public education is facing a perfect storm so severe that even some of our allies are seeking refuge in cheap and easy approaches.
For starters, we are still reeling from the effects of the worst recession since the Great
Depression.
We appreciate that, in last year’s stimulus bill, Congress and the administration created a $100 billion investment that blunted the crippling cuts that were looming last year.
And you saw the results. In K-12 education, the stabilization fund kept the worst effects of the recession from being played out in children’s classrooms.
The investment in Pell Grants kept students in college.
The investment in FMAP allowed public hospitals to stay open and public services to continue.
But even with last year’s help, this year’s outlook is bleak—and that’s despite the Herculean efforts of AFT members like you, and the efforts of members of Congress as late as last week to find the funds to mitigate the continued devastation from state and local government cuts.
We are grateful to the House of Representatives for once again leading the way, and to Chairman Obey and Speaker Pelosi in particular. But look what’s happening: Already, more than 120 school districts across the country have shortened the school week to just four days.
Higher education has been hit hard, too. At the University of California last year, while tuition increased a staggering 32 percent, our affiliate reports that 10 percent of the contingent faculty members were either laid off or not renewed. And the chancellor of the California Community Colleges System estimates that 140,000 students were turned away from the system’s 112campuses this academic year, a trend he expects to continue.
Others are “solving” budget crises by cutting art, music and physical education, slashing
prekindergarten programs and help for students who fall behind.
Many of you are taking furlough days both to prevent the interruption of core services so many depend upon and to save a colleague’s job.
Many of you have agreed to other cost savings—in pensions and benefits, salary freezes,
increases in class size, and other shared sacrifices.
Randy Weingarten.  President. American Federation of Teachers.  July 8,2020. 
Post a Comment
 
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.