Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sad News for Teachers

Recent moves by GOP lawmakers across the country are taking aim at unions. Teachers unions. The prospective votes have caused major issues with reps all over the country, particularly in the Midwest. The GOP stance on unions has been that they are a waste of money, creating a group of working elite that get all the benefits for the least cost. They have railed against unions because they cost private companies control over their employees, and add cost to the work of public jobs like government workers, doctors, and...teachers.

I work in schools, so I see the trouble that teachers go through just to get by on their current salaries. School boards fight with the unions every year, coming to the brink of a strike nearly every time. The unions serve a very important purpose: they preserve the rights and salaries of teachers. Every time the budget is up for renewal, the school board tries to cut salaries, benefits, and classroom budgets, even consolidate school districts and schools, resulting in overcrowded classrooms and even more costs for having to renovate and expand a single school for an increased population. Without the unions, we would be down to a single teacher getting paid minimum wage with ten year old textbooks. In short, we'd be back where we were 150 years ago, teaching all kids in a one-room schoolhouse.

Without the bargaining power that unions currently have to help their members, they will be obsolete. They will be dismantled, their members will be at the mercy of school boards who will cut costs by eliminating the safety net for teachers.

Our nation is slipping in its education. Our teachers are having demands placed on them that are irresponsible, overwhelming, and often impossible. They are the targets of every side, from being blamed for failing to help our students succeed, to being called extremists for "indoctrination." They are stuck in a necessary but ungrateful job that has now become more difficult because they have to worry about whether they will make enough money to live on the next year. They have to worry about whether they will have something to retire to (they already have one of the highest average retirement ages).

We should be protecting our educators, honoring them for their service to our world, our nation, and our communities. We should remember those who taught us what we know, how they changed our lives, and what things would be like if, all of a sudden, they couldn't afford to do that work anymore. We owe it to our educators, those who are specialized and educated and who have become the consummate scapegoats, to do better than this.

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