WE AT THE Virginia Education Association absolutely believe that we owe it to our children to ensure that they have every opportunity to succeed in the 21st century. That is, in fact, what we are all about and what we advocate for every single day. We vigorously disagree, however, with proponents of school choice programs on how to provide that opportunity to each and every child. I believe that the promise of vouchers and tuition tax credits programs is a false one for too many of the children who need our public schools the most.I have emphasized three sections in the above passage and let me take them apart one at a time.
Instead of dreaming up so many different ways to abandon our public schools, wouldn't it be more helpful and productive if folks spent the same amount of time and energy trying to work for meaningful reforms within the system?
Politicians want to blame teachers for being in the way of school reform, but I would suggest that teachers haven't yet been asked to be a meaningful part of the solution. Instead we are just being blamed for the problems caused in large part by policies that were adopted as short-term fixes for long-term problems. Practicing educators would love to be part of the conversation around how to fix some of the problems that exist in the current system -- just give us a place at the table and listen to us for a change!
Let me be very clear: Public schools are not perfect. They never have been. But our public schools should certainly not be abandoned by the very public they strive to serve. The fact of the matter is that, with all of their various problems, public schools in America need to be defended and protected: It is there that the vast majority of our nation's citizens learn about what it really means to be an American.(emphasis added)
WE AT THE Virginia Education Association absolutely believe that we owe it to our children to ensure that they have every opportunity to succeed in the 21st century. That is, in fact, what we are all about and what we advocate for every single day.Um, no actually teachers' unions don't and more importantly they shouldn't. Teachers unions exist to protect the working conditions and so-called rights of teachers first and foremost. If any teachers' union official tells you otherwise they are lying to your face. When push comes to shove, the concerns and welfare of teachers will always take precedence over the welfare of students and parents! And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact the unions have that duty to their members, it is why they exist. I have no problem with that mission, as much as I may not like the tactics.
However, when a union leader tells you, "we are in it for the kids" you should read the next words very carefully and figure out what is in it for the unions. In this case, whenever funds are used in charter schools or in voucher programs, those are schools where the unions have no presence or power. In short, the unions don't have a say or role--that is what they want, power, position and prestige. In school choice programs, unions don't have them.
I will embrace any union official in honest competition who says, "My goal is to get the best for my members first. Everything else after that is gravy." That is honesty ladies and gentlemen, not spin.
Politicians want to blame teachers for being in the way of school reform, but I would suggest that teachers haven't yet been asked to be a meaningful part of the solution.There are actually two parts to this. Let's take the second part first. I will conceed that teachers, actual classroom, practicing day-in, day-out teachers, are often not called in to discuss the policy and program problems in education. I think that is clear, but I also think it is changing. I think practicing teachers are trying to contribute more and I think policymakers are making a concerted effort to have more teachers at the table.
But, and here is the crucial caveat, by teacher, I don't mean just a union official. If I am a policymaker, I want a real life, preferrably acknowledged as successful, teacher at the policy table, not a teacher union official. Unions probably get a seat at the table, but when it comes to actual education, in the the classroom policy, the unions should sit down and let the professionals run the table.
I do think that politicians sometimes do a poor job of distinguishing between teachers (i.e. the people in the classroom) and the teachers' unions. I am sorry, there is simply too much information out there that points to union obstructionism when it comes to making our schools better at performing their mission--educating kids. The unions cannot claim to be "doing it for the kids" when they stand in the way of incentives to get better teachers in hard to service schools, or object to programs to take successful professionals from the business world to the classroom. In truth, I think a lot of politicians who "blame teachers" are really blaming the unions and just doing a poor job of distinguishing the two, which is not surprising for politicians.
Let me be very clear: Public schools are not perfect. They never have been. But our public schools should certainly not be abandoned by the very public they strive to serve.Translation: Our public schools suck, but don't give up on us.
If a I go a restaurant with good food but bad service, why would I keep going back if the service was so poor, no matter how much I liked the food. If my mechanic sucked, I certainly wouldn't continue going back to him to get my car fixed, no matter how much I love my car. If my doctor sucked, I wouldn't keep seeking treatment from him, no matter how sick I got. If my child's dance teacher sucked, I certainly wouldn't pay tuition to keep sending my child to that dance studio, no matter how popular that studio might be. If my politicians sucked, I certainly wouldn't keep voting to keep them in office, no matter what they promised. Do you see my pattern? We pay for a service that isn't going its job. Why on earth then, should we continue to keep paying for bad service?
The interesting thing is that when you look at the number of teachers union officials and teachers themselves who send their kids to private school, you have to wonder at this position. Yes, we suck, but keep sending your kids to our bad schools.
If the schools are that bad, and the public that is supposed to staff them and the public that is supposed to ensure their quality can't do so, why shouldn't the public abandon them? If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, the public would be insane to continue going to a public school system that routinely fails them. That is simply common sense.
See the teachers unions feed this propaganda as if they should somehow know better than you. Take the mechanic or doctor example from above. I don't know much about cars, but I understand servicing my needs. I don't know much about medicine, but still I understand servicing my needs. Teachers want you to think that you don't understand education, but that you also don't understand your needs and whether or not public education is serving your needs.
If the unions would ever embrace the idea that public education is a service for the public and not a sinecure for their members, then we might see some real change.