a little bit of everything

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato

Thursday, November 17, 2005

You can't have it both ways.

In a small school district in a far Northwestern suburb of Chicago a great debate has been brewing for the past few years. Actually debate is the wrong word, see debate implies that it's an intellectual argument when it really is a bunch of middle class and upper middle class parents whining about schools and money. According to many parents in the towns of Richmond and Spring Grove Illinois, Nippersink District 2 has not done an adequate job of teaching their children. But a year and a half ago these same parents voted down an education referendum which resulted in the loss of 18 teachers in the district. Okay, that makes sense, the schools are doing a "poor job" so lets cut 18 teachers resulting in huge class sizes and a loss of programs. I was one of the unlucky18 to be cut, however looking back maybe I got the better end of the deal. Last school year as a result of the cuts my former colleagues at the middle school had 35+ kids in each class, a handful had 40+, oh and they also lost one of their plan periods. I see in order to improve their children's education the community voted, by over 80%, to increase class sizes making it extremely difficult to attend to each child's need, and reduce the amount of time the teachers had to prepare for class. Is this supposed to be some kind of reverse psychology?

As if this wasn't bad enough the teacher's union has been dealing with difficult contract negotiations since February. Due to the failed referendum and reduced state funds (thanks to Georgie's ingenious No Child Left Behind) the district is hurting for money. What's the answer to the money problem? According to the District 2 school board and administration you should take the money from the teacher's salaries and benefits. Because you know teachers are over paid. The thing is teachers weren't asking for huge raises, they were trying to keep what little they had, like adequate health and retirement benefits. What outrageous demands. After a Tuesday night negotiation meeting with a federal mediator the teachers were
set to strike. Thinking of the interests of their students the teachers set the strike day for Thursday giving parents a day to plan for childcare. Luckily the school board realized the union wasn't bluffing and called a last minute meeting Wednesday afternoon and a contract was negotiated averting the strike.

The issues between the teachers, administration, school board and community are far from over. I only hope that these issues can start to be dealt with in a more civilized way. However knowing first hand how teachers are treated by the administration and board, that is unlikely. If you don't understand what I mean just take a look at what "concerned parent" Glen Samuel has to say about the teachers:

The community sent a clear message to the school board and teachers when 80 percent of voters shot down two education referendums in the last 13 months. In the real world, teachers would have got a pay cut. They would have got a benefit cut. These people would have been making a grave error going against the community. We pay our property taxes. We have a right to have the schools open.

Well the message you sent in voting down the referendums is that you value money and principal over education. And yes you have a right to have schools open but teachers have a right to earn a living. I agree that the financial structure of the education system is completely screwed up but don't take it out on the teachers. Take it up with the people who can actually do something about it like the local, state and federal governments.

Teachers aren't money hungry or greedy people. We know going into this profession that lower pay is something we have to deal with. But you have to draw the line somewhere. My wise friend, Lorie Comstock, put it best, "We're not in this for the money, but I don't want to be taken advantage of either."