Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. National Teacher Day was first celebrated in 1953 and in 1980, the week containing National Teacher Day was proclaimed to be Teacher Appreciation Week. Since then, politicians have consistently praised teachers, even while they strip teachers of their employee rights, remove due process from law, cut education budgets and divert public funds to private pockets, or misuse student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers.
Here is part of a letter about the hypocrisy of those politicians. The writer contrasts their “lip service” to their actions.
This week is the annual celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Politicians of every stripe and school superintendents everywhere will write letters and make proclamations stating how much they value the service and dedication of teachers everywhere. All of these words are empty and merely paying lip service to something they do not believe. By their actions, these ”leaders” have made it obvious that they neither appreciate, admire, respect nor comprehend the jobs of the people who spend their days with the nation’s children. Nor do they understand the first thing about the children in those classrooms.
And here is a letter from Indiana State Representative Bob Behning, who has spent his 24 years in the Indiana State Legislature fighting against public education and public school teachers. For example, he wrote the original bill in the Indiana House which is now responsible for diverting millions of dollars of public funds to religious schools in the form of vouchers and he was influential in passing charter school legislation which does the same. Donations to his campaign flow from charter operators such as Christel DeHaan ($27,500), and “reform” organizations like Hoosiers for Quality Education ($72,000), Hoosiers for Economic Growth ($36,750), and Stand for Children ($14,697). As they say, “follow the money.”
The author of this piece equates charter schools and vouchers to cable television. I’m not sure if that is completely accurate since television has always been a for-profit industry (except for PBS). Perhaps a better analogy would be to equate charter schools and vouchers to a private security company which patrols a gated community being paid with taxpayer funds instead of using the municipal police department.
The important message of this article, however, is that teachers must become involved in the political process, vote, and vote for pro-public school candidates, or the profession of teaching will be gone along with public education.
…if the reformers get their way, everyone will be paying tuition from pre-K on. Once the state has effectively “charterized” most of Indiana, those “dollars following the student” will be rolled back. They will. We should have them imagine the day when middle class families are trying to come up with tuition fees equivalent to a pair of country club memberships—every year for 13 years with the spectre of the college price-tag looming beyond that. And we shouldn’t stop there. We should also encourage future grandparents to imagine forking over their Florida and Myrtle Beach money to help their adult kids send their grandchildren to school. If the millennials can barely pay for themselves now in this economy, who is going to be helping them pay for their own kids? The reformers plan to do to schools what Time-Warner did to television: turn something we used to get for very little into something for which we willingly pay hyper-inflated fees. [emphasis added]
…Right now I’m voting to hang onto my frozen salary and my retirement. Right now, I’m voting to keep myself in the middle-class. And if, for some reason, you’re still not sure how you’ll cast your vote this November, then let me remind of you of something I said when I shared that aforementioned interview with Oakley to the educational world: Vote or die.
The Indiana State Supreme Court has it wrong.
“No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” — Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.
As Berliner and Glass explain, “Diversion of existing public schools resources to private schools results in taxpayer support for all kinds of religious instruction at all kinds of religious schools, with little or no oversight by states or the public.”
That means public tax dollars are funding religion based curriculum that teach, for instance, a creationist view of science or a version of history that portrays slaves as happy servants to their masters.
Curriculum materials that depict people of color in demeaning, stereotypical ways that have created such consternation in public schools can be readily adopted for private schools using vouchers. And how many schools getting voucher funding will choose a right-wing version of history that teaches the founders of the nation never intended the separation of church and state but sought instead to construct a Christian theocracy?
Voucher proponents claim all of this is fine because parents have “made the choice.” But shouldn’t we have a choice about whether or not we fund this?
REFORM: THE FREE MARKET
Children need stability in their schooling, and the free market style of education as promoted by “reformers” is exactly the thing which can cause instability in schools. Businesses have to make money to keep running. Publicly supported schools need to focus on the needs of students, not profit.
Charters close because charter schools are businesses, and businesses close when it is not financially viable for them to stay open.
The free market will never work for a national education system. Never. Never ever.
A business operating in a free market will only stay in business as long as it is economically viable to do so. And it will never be economically viable to provide a service to every single customer in the country.
…charter schools will continue to close when it makes business sense to do so, no matter what sorts of promises they made to the families of their students. Charter schools think like businesses, not like schools, because charter schools are businesses. We cannot be surprised when they act like businesses, and we cannot keep hiding from a discussion about the implications of turning that business mindset on a public good.
I am uncomfortable when we focus on teacher salaries. Perhaps it’s because of the years I spent on our teachers association’s negotiating team. I remember negotiating for other items which would benefit students and teachers – items which were not part of the teacher salary package – like class size, teacher prep time, and collaboration. When the media reported on teacher negotiations they still focused on money, even when we were focused on other issues. This misrepresentation – that teachers were only interested in more money – had a negative effect, such as when a school board member told us we were “only interested in the size of [our] wallets.”
Be that as it may, the teacher salary situation in Indiana and across the country is getting worse. In Indiana, for example, teachers are no longer on a step-salary schedule. Experience no longer counts for anything. Raises are only “across the board” and with budget cuts (many coming from diversion of funds from public schools to charter schools and vouchers) the average salary of teachers in Indiana has dropped by 13.7% over the last 15 years.
Despite this, politicians, while making nice talk about teachers, bash the unions for their attempt to get more money for teachers. Teacher shortage, anyone?
“Clearly there is something wrong with the way our society values the work teachers do, and yet when teachers object to budget cuts or ask for increases in pay, they are dismissed and the politicians who dismiss them are often celebrated as straight-shooters.”
Over the past 3 decades politicians have convinced Americans that our taxes are overly burdensome. Every election season they rail on taxes and in truth, the middle class in America has been asked to shoulder more and more of the tax burden while wealthier Americans have seen their taxes, as a percentage of their income, drop (here and here). When there’s less money, paying for essential services such as schools, roads, and water systems becomes more difficult. Our national infrastructure is deteriorating quicker than we can keep up with it. The nation is crumbling…
Perhaps the politicians who made those commitments should have been more prudent. But the real reason things are falling apart is, he told me is “our obsession with tax cuts.”
For decades, we’ve been cutting the percentage of the economy that gets collected in taxes, [Charlie] Ballard[, professor of economics at Michigan State University,] told me, eviscerating state and local revenues.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Anthony Cody gives us all a chance to be “King for a Day” – John King, that is. How would you “elevate the teaching profession” if you were the US Secretary of Education.
Here are Cody’s options…see the article for details about each.
Free teachers from evaluations based on test scores and bogus VAM calculations…
Cease federal support for charter schools, which have the effect of drawing resources and students away from democratically controlled public schools…
Support and strengthen due process for teachers…
Decertify “virtual” schools…
Cut off Department of Education funding for Teach For America…
Adopt policies to reverse the dramatic decline among teachers of color, African Americans in particular…
Support the expansion of Ethnic Studies programs…
Provide support for financially strapped districts to reverse the decline in the number of librarians, counselors, nurses and other support staff that are so important for children…
Remove any Federal consequences for standardized tests…
Actively support school initiatives in art, music, dance, drama and athletics…
Protect student privacy, and stop promoting the collection of student data for use by ed-tech companies…
Promote genuine “personalized learning” by supporting reductions in class size…
Work to address unequal funding of schools…
SUPPORT SCHOOL LIBRARIES
Krashen has a problem with reading coaches because we need to support libraries and librarians. If a school does have a good library program run by a certified school librarian, then I have no problem with “reading coaches.” What’s interesting in this article is that the New York City reading coaches will emphasize the so-called “five pillars of reading” from the frequently discredited National Reading Panel report.
The public schools of America have been obsessively focused on the five aspects of reading instruction named by the panel since the NRP report was released in 2000 — phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. No one denies that those are important, but it’s clear that the NRP only reported on those aspects of reading instruction because those are the easiest to measure via testing (see DIBELS), and indeed, the five were specifically included in No Child Left Behind.
The problems with the National Reading Panel (NRP) Report in 2000 were well documented by Gerald Coles in Reading, The Naked Truth and Elaine Garan in Resisting Reading Mandates. Among other things the NRP foolishly rejected research about student access to texts and matching kids to appropriate texts.
Something was missing, though, which reading teachers understood…purpose, motivation and opportunity for reading. Richard Allington wrote The Five Missing Pillars of Scientific Reading Instruction soon after the NRP report was released. It’s a two page addition which includes important aspects of good reading instruction.
- Access to interesting texts and choice.
- Matching kids with appropriate texts.
- Writing and reading have reciprocal positive effects.
- Classroom organization: Balance whole class teaching with small group and side- by-side instruction.
- Availability of expert tutoring.
Schools need well-stocked libraries and professional librarians every bit as much as they need phonics and comprehension instruction. Reading coaches are fine, as long as they don’t replace essential aspects of reading instruction.
New York City reading coaches “will emphasize use of the five pillars of reading laid out in the 2000 National Reading Panel report—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.”
…The evidence suggests that we don’t need coaches in every elementary school, we need well supported school libraries and librarians.