I spent some time talking with my mother this week. My mother, dear reader, is a second grade teacher. My mom has been teaching in the same school district in Idaho for 33 years. Next year is her last year --she's retiring in May of 2012.
Some of you may know about what's been going down in Idaho's school system this year, but I'm pretty sure most of you do not know about it. I can't claim to be an expert of the so-called Luna Laws, but I do know that for most teachers (all teachers?) there is nothing but outrage, disgust, hurt, disappointment, and now dreaded fear.
Let me paint you a picture, dear reader. Imagine, if you will, a few decades ago. What was life like for an Elementary School Teacher in Idaho? Imagine a job where you got about 10 minutes for lunch, had no prep time in school, and were required to do bus and recess duty everyday. There were no music or P.E. teachers. There were no computer teachers or reading aids. If you had a tough student, you had a tough student. If you had a student with learning challenges, than you were challenged together. There was no extra help. Aside from the janitor and the lunch servers, you were pretty much it.
Time went on, and after your teacher's union (in Idaho) fought with tooth and nail, you finally, finally, finally got a 30 minute lunch! Huzzah! More great things started happening: Children who needed extra help got extra help! You, as a teacher, were able to focus more time on academics and lesson plans because there were suddenly music teachers and P.E. teachers; aids and on-duty help with recess, lunch, and the buses.
Well, guess what is happening in Idaho? The state superintendent (Mr. Luna) has a vision for the students, and with the help of the legislators and their emergency laws ("emergency" so teachers and parents wouldn't have time to oppose it), he is about to see it become a reality. Tenure is gone. Any teacher or aid can be fired or laid off at any time for any reason, even within weeks of school starting. The nearly 800 teachers retiring this year? Won't replace them. One teacher is going to be replaced with an online course.
Guess what else? They want to cap out all salaries at 30K. That means anyone who has been working longer than 10-15 years will lose THOUSANDS of dollars yearly. Automatically. Oh, they do have the option of Merit Pay --up to 8K. Ooh! Merit Pay! Because we all know that works (sarcasm, here): All it takes is one struggling ESL or learning challenged child and your merit pay is out the window.
So, the idea is that these teachers, who are finally in a place where they can actually pull through the STUPID, STUPID, STUPID No Child Left Behind Laws because of the extra help --are going backwards. Next on the agenda is to get rid of music, P.E., extra aids. They will be going back to doing it all on their own. And for less money! Whoo-hoo! The children will have no arts programs, over-worked teachers, crowded classrooms, and --if Luna gets his way --they will learn everything ONLINE. Yep! Luna wants every 14 year old to be given a laptop. He wants them to take online courses. Not to mention spending MILLIONS on electronics that could be used to pay amazing teachers. Honest! They are taking the money and putting into electronic teachers.
The crazy part is that NOBODY wanted these laws to pass. Teachers are getting ready to sue. Local superintendents' hands are tied. The public is in outrage because of the betrayal of their representatives --there have been rallies after rallies, petitions after petitions and still, their representatives voted against what their constituents wanted.
It's so sad, dear reader. For my mother, who is retiring, it won't affect her much (except that she's up to lose thousands of dollars that she was expecting to get this next year if her salary is slashed --that money was not only expected, but needed so she could retire on time!), but she is so upset for everyone she is leaving behind. Her heart is broken because she truly cares for these teachers --but more than that? She knows what will happen to all the kids. She's afraid for their education; their possible failure.
You CANNOT educated based on subjects. In order to educate a child, one must educate the entire person. This isn't about money or lack of money or academics versus the arts or lunch hours or bus duty --this is about educating our children. The future population of this country.
That brings me to other similar points I feel passionately about:
1. Sports and Arts should be the norm and not the exception. Sometimes, those are the only things keeping kids in calculus classes.
2. Teachers should not be afraid of teaching! Holding fear of firing and retribution over them like a gauntlet is NOT going to make them teach better.
3. Parents should be working WITH teachers and not against them.
4. It sucks that a minority of crappy teachers have created this mass psychotic legislature to "protect" us all from that minority. Punishing the majority to protect us from the minority? I swear it's the theme of our government.
5. What can we do? We all whine and complain that the education in our country sucks and is dying and needs work and should improve and why can't they fix it already!? But you know what? This is PUBLIC education. It needs the public to support it!
I've thought about the fifth a lot lately, but I'm not quite sure how to go about doing it. I'm sure many of you have thought about this more than I have, because quite frankly, I've been blessed with a great school for my kids. One of the reasons why? Parental involvement. The parental involvement at my kids' school is outstanding! The teachers are championed and supported in every way. It makes it an all-around great experience for our community because of it.
Anyway. If you live in Idaho, I encourage you protest the Luna Laws in every way you can! If not, start thinking about how you might be able to help your local schools. You might be able to make a really big difference --but how can you know until you try? It's worth the shot. And, as we've all heard from The Simpsons:
Won't somebody pleeeeease, think of the children!?