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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Great Education Debate: My Two Cents

Teachers are getting a bad rap this week, as if our admittedly powerful unions are responsible for all our country’s problems. I find it odd that teachers’ pensions are an area of concern, yet the regulation of the mortgage and banking industries, which got us in the financial quagmire that has deemed bills like the one in Wisconsin a viable option, remain largely ignored in the debate. I get it, tax dollars pay for my health benefits and retirement plan (as well as my salary), while many Americans are forced to buy into their own 401Ks and pay for health insurance out of their own pockets. I get that. Keep in mind, however, that I pay taxes, too, which essentially means that I’m paying a portion of my own salary and benefits with MY OWN SALARY.

Furthermore, I’m hearing lots of arguments from childless adults who feel they shouldn’t have to pay taxes to fund education…I don’t even know how to begin to explain the ignorance in that idea. Just because my house didn’t catch on fire this year, does that mean a portion of my taxes shouldn’t go to paying the fire department? Do these childless adults not realize that it’s publically-educated students who will be running their hospitals and building their houses and, not to overuse the analogy, putting out the fires they might start due to senility and obvious ignorance at even basic cause and effect relationships? I mean, really?

I know, I should take a deep breath and look at this from the anti-union point of view. There’s plenty wrong with the educational system in this country. I mentioned in a previous post that we’re facing pretty significant layoffs…the teachers chosen to leave our campus next year are not the ineffective ones. Plenty of them remain to file their nails and call the kids idiots due to tenure and seniority. Instead, it’s the old “last in, first out” rule that prevails in most teacher layoff situations, which is vexing. I can understand why hardworking taxpayers feel that they shouldn’t be paying for a group of heavily-protected “professionals” who, as long as they’ve been around long enough, can’t really lose their jobs. It’s frustrating for me too because I work hard and stand a fair chance at facing the chopping block, should more layoffs be deemed necessary. Plus, I know a lot of really incredible and highly-educated teachers that won’t be returning next year because they’ve just entered the profession.

But for all those who have spent the past week posting hateful comments at the end of CNN news stories on education, keep in mind that there are many good teachers who work really hard. I have 140 students (it will be as high as 175 next year), many of whom don’t speak English, have special needs, or lack the social skills necessary to prevent them from punching someone in the face who looked at them funny during a passing period, yet I still do my best to inspire and educate. I didn’t enter this profession because I thought it was easy or to make a fortune, because I think we can all agree that’s never been an option. Instead, I wanted to take my college degrees and $30K worth of student loan debt and do something fulfilling and worthwhile. Teachers don’t get a whole lot in return for their hours of hard work except three months off and good benefits. I worry that it’s only a matter of time before both are snatched away. And when it happens, don’t expect even the most well-intentioned teachers to stick around. We can’t be martyrs in this economy (and I hear that Costco is hiring).

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