Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Do We Value Education? by Cinda Klickna

The difficult thing to do in tough times is to understand where you are while remembering where you want to be. We have seen the American middle class under attack. The fact that unions have stopped education and educators from being completely decimated is, we believe, something for which we should all be thankful.

We need to bring the American middle class back. A high quality public education system, capable of attracting top quality teachers to the profession, is instrumental to that goal. In today's world, teachers are not being spared any of the problems other middle-class Americans see in their workplaces. They're paying more for insurance while wages stagnate. Thousands of Illinois teachers receive RIF (dismissal) notices every spring because school boards need to hedge their bets as to whether they'll be able to afford to bring them back. While most who want to return get to do so, they're finding larger class sizes and fewer resources at the same time that expectations are rapidly rising.

Like everyone else, teachers are being asked to do more for less. Like everyone else, we don't like it. We do it because we want to make a difference for students. As Charles Blow wrote in the New York Times, teachers are, understandably, feeling under attack and disrespected. There is strong reason to be concerned about the ability to continue to attract high quality people to the teaching profession.

We all need to ask ourselves some important questions: Do we mean what we say when we praise education and educators? Do we truly value the work that takes place in our schools? Does envy, largely based on the constant focus on the outliers in public education, invalidate the work done every day, every year by so many wonderful, caring school employees? Do we value teachers? Are these people, who do not receive social security, entitled to a reasonable retirement after decades of service to students?

If the answer is "Yes," then we all need to act to make sure that we continue to have quality teachers along with the resources that students need to succeed. We believe that is reasonable.

Cinda Klickna
Illinois Education Association President

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