Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Sincere Apology To All Our Oklahoma Teacher Friends

Yesterday, I (Jenni White) made a Facebook post after seeing this picture with THOUSANDS of teachers gathered at the Capitol:
I am sorry, but this picture frustrates me. Do I think teachers are abused and unappreciated in our current system? Yes. Do I think public education needs more money? No. Oklahoma funds public education to 52% of the entire state budget. This was billed as a rally for funding. I'm certain there were many there mad at a whole lot of things and I certainly don't want to denigrate anyone who attempts to affect their government, so forgive me for the blanket generalization, but how much money does public education need? 100% of the budget? Teachers can teach in a dark alley if they are good teachers. Do superintendents really need 6 figure salaries? What about the endless unfunded mandates caused by the federal intervention in our schools our state Superintendent and Governor say they don't want? The problems with public education today do not distill down to money. Why pretend they do? The money for classrooms needs to come out of programs and administration, not additions to the budget. In the meantime, instead of these size crowds at the Capitol protesting 3rd grade reading retention and common core - which would actually help students and the parents that pay for the system - the rally is dedicated to money. I find that very, very sad.
Obviously, I did a poor job on this post.  I tried to make teachers aware we appreciated them through the second sentence, but that did not come across the way l intended apparently, as some of the comments made on the post had to be erased because of the colorful swear words used to describe my thoughts.  (The comment about the 'dark alley' was meant to be a compliment - not a dis.  "Good teachers can teach anywhere with anything" was the point I was trying to make.)  Many teachers were at the state Capitol on Monday from across the state on behalf of their students and parents, not money.  I understand that, but did not communicate that clearly.  Teachers tell us frequently how upset they are with their jobs - never, ever have I heard a one of them relate their dissatisfaction to pay.

I guess that's why I was frustrated.  The teachers we know and appreciate greatly just want to be able to teach the way they want without someone sitting on their shoulder telling them how to do it, yet, the coordinators of this rally made it clear the rally was solely about funding.  I honestly felt like  teachers - and anyone who attended - were being used to promote this ideal - and that didn't seem right to me.  Here are my thoughts on that topic:

This page can be found on the CCOSA website at this URL : http://www.ccosa.org/vnews/display.v/ART/52e2de711cfc2
 Please note,
"The Education Rally is a unified effort to encourage Oklahoma Legislators to secure funding for public education."
This poster can be found on the CCOSA (Cooperative Council Oklahoma School Administration) webpage. It goes on to list all those organizations sponsoring the rally - none of whom have come out against Common Core to my knowledge (please correct me - without using swear words - if I'm wrong).  In fact, the PTA is being paid by Bill Gates to support the standards.

Many comments were made on Facebook about the fact that the media was portraying the rally as a rally for more money, but not everyone was there rallying for money. Why would the media cast the rally as a rally for education funding?  Because CCOSA put out all kinds of press releases and information out to the media telling them it was about funding, that's why.  You can find all the links to the media literature right there on the webpage.

CCOSA sponsored the rally while many superintendents in Oklahoma are paid well into the six figures.  This is an old article, but it lists the average superintendent salary at over $100,000 dollars.  What does a teacher make?  A fraction of that.  Coming into the Oklahoma public school system to teach with a Master's Degree gets you a bit over $32,000.  Truly, do the people who run the schools need to be paid that much better than those who actually teach the children?  Certainly, I've met a number of rural superintendents along my travels who make nothing near that and also teach and/or coach for their pay.  They are to be commended certainly and we all know that not every school superintendent falls into the six figure category, I understand that, I'm using an umbrella here.

CCOSA not only makes their money from membership dues paid by administrators (individually, or collectively out of the school budget?), but they also have corporate sponsorships available.
To be considered a Prestigious Partner, the vendor must meet the criteria listed below and have a signed agreement detailing support and the Council's Commitment
Who are these corporations?  Many of the same ones benefiting from Common Core and other national school 'reform' measures - CTB/McGraw Hill and Scholastic of course - but also a company called Barlow Education Management Services.  What do they do?  They provide schools with 'expertise' in the area of collective bargaining, teacher/leader effectiveness and federal program management.  So, schools are taking money out of the classroom to pay these consultants for issues that are sucking more money out of the classroom?

Therein lies my frustration.  Why would teachers support a rally put together by associations and organizations that are removing money from classrooms?  It think it apparent that many weren't really aware of who was behind the rally and why.  

I wrote about education funding several months ago.  I have stated over and over again that more money needs to go into the classroom by removing unfunded mandates and federal control over education - the compliance with which suck money out of the classroom.  I think one way to solve this would be to point to those people stopping the flow of money to the classroom (as mentioned above) and force some school/district accountability there.  

In closing, I again apologize for any hurt feelings, but I want to remind teachers, we aren't paid via membership dues (or anything else) to research, educate and lobby against measures that will ultimately hurt children and take money out of the classroom.  We try hard to support good teachers because we appreciate all you do for parents, kids and families.