I used to want to go into politics. When I was eighteen and contemplating my future, I thought nothing would be more exciting than working at the Capitol. I would use my brains and my eloquence to make the world a better place.
Mei Flower Goes to Washington, that was my vision.
Well, I'm older now, and the scales have fallen, as they do. I no longer want to be a politician--not because I don't think I'm qualified (I totally am), but because I would rather not be associated with the profession. Lying down with dogs, etc.
Unfortunately, those dogs and their fleas still have a major impact on my job.
Apparently ever single person who's been elected to the legislature has a degree in education, and is therefore qualified to make decisions that affect Tennessee's public schools. Of course they do.
The fact is that the state's legislators, like most non-teachers, have no respect for teachers, have no idea what I do all day, and have 100,000,000,000 ideas on how to fix a system that THEY broke in the first place.
As my state--like the other 49--is facing a budget crunch this year, where exactly do our legislators look to save money? The answer, obviously, is to take it out of teachers' paychecks.
It's not like this is an isolated incident. Every day I hear more stories about schools closing because of our current economic situation. Why aren't more people angry about this? It's not like education doesn't drive EVERY SINGLE OTHER PROFESSION, right?
Anyway, concerning Tennessee's budget cuts specifically, here's the email I wrote to my dad, when he was composing his letter of complaint to our state senator. NOTE: He did not use any of my ideas in his final draft.
You could talk about how we're already experiencing budget crunches on the local level and how that is causing us to work harder, since we'll have bigger classes but the same obligations to raise test scores. You could also mention that you didn't read any articles about the state politicians taking any pay cuts. Further, you could ask where, exactly, that Race to the Top money is going to go, since it has been earmarked for education, and using it to build a new Governor's Mansion or sports stadium violates both the terms of that grant money and the trust of the educators of Tennessee. I would further remind him that there are almost 60,000 educators in Tennessee, and that each of them is also a voter.
According to this study, there are not enough teachers in our state, and projections say that we will have fewer and fewer as time progresses. How can we effectively educate Tennessee's children if there is no teacher in the classroom? What incentive does a potential teacher have to teach in Tennessee? Teaching is already one of the 10 worst-paying college degrees , and now the state is trying offer even less to new graduates. How do they think they're going to provide quality education IF THEY DON'T PAY FOR IT.
Also, education is one of the few industries in our state that shows a consistent growth rate (at least 2% per year), but the salary growth rate is not consistent with employment rate. (source: pdf file)
This is all in addition to the fact that the legislature itself has given teachers more responsibilities, instituted a set of unreasonable expectations in the form of state testing, and forced us to work longer hours--WHILE REFUSING TO PAY FOR IT.
If, as these lawmakers say, education IS important, they need to put their money where their mouths are.