As I sit here reading the news as I do most nights before I turn in, I see articles on Palestinians protesting, Japanese activists protesting, Yemeni students protesting, and, of course, the Wisconsin public protesting. That’s right – protests in the United States – where the public is protesting because some of our political leaders are behaving like dictators instead of working with representatives of the public to problem-solve issues.
While I have been identified as an eternal optimist and a problem-solver, I can honestly say that I am becoming disillusioned with our political leaders. I find that too often those leaders are guided by persons or organizations that show them the money instead of accepting guidance and problem solving with the experts in the pertaining fields.
As a teacher, I am committed to making a positive difference in the lives of my students by preparing them for both college and/or future employment. As an educator, I am committed to keeping up with emerging technologies because I know that students today are technology-based learners who do not learn the same way I was taught. As President of the Pleasant Plains Education Association, I am committed to helping the teachers in my district keep up with the evolving learning standards of the State of Illinois.
As a citizen of the United States, I am committed to make my voice heard so that my legislators can represent me accurately. I do not think public employees are told often enough how much they are appreciated. As an educator, I hear complaints about education and teachers more than I hear someone giving kudos. It is an undisputable fact that a happy employee, one who is given praise when praise is due, will perform better than an employee who does not receive praise. Putting public employees in a position of blame for funding issues has created negativity towards public employees and has placed public employees on the defensive.
Because public education is funded by the government, educators are forced to get by on whatever the government allocates for education. Some districts, like Pleasant Plains, wisely began looking ahead to the future and tried to plan for upcoming costs. While this planning was a great start, the loss of State funding for public education has placed Pleasant Plains, as well as several other school districts, in a position that over time may adversely affect students.
When I see that 65,000 public employees are protesting at the capitol building in Wisconsin, part of me is excited that the American public is making its voice heard. However, another part of me is saddened that 65,000 Americans feel that their government is not fairly representing them. To see that union leaders in Wisconsin have agreed to increased health insurance and pension contributions if collective bargaining rights are not stripped, while the Wisconsin governor appears unwilling to compromise, utterly confuses me. The government’s position has been about cutting costs, but a clause in the bill that attacks collective bargaining rights of public employees does not send the message that saving money is the real agenda – especially if the governor will not work with union leaders to problem-solve the issues.
I then look to Illinois where some legislators are making public employees the scapegoats for several years of inefficient management of the State’s funds. Outside organizations funded by corporate entities are lobbying legislators to “reform” education. While these outside organizations may have good intentions, the experts in the field are the right people to ask for advice in keeping up with the evolution of education. Undermining the Education Associations makes no sense when those Associations are striving to work with legislators to improve public education.
It is clearly time for bi-partisan political bickering to come to an end. This is an American issue, not a Republican issue, not a Democrat issue, not a union issue. Properly funding public education while giving respect to public employees is the ethical responsibility of the government.
I am not so naïve to think that this is an easy task, but as an American citizen, I expect to be fairly represented. I ask that legislators work with the unions and education associations to problem-solve the most fair resolution to the issues. I ask of all that an end come to the “us versus them” mentality. The political games are creating a lack of trust in all sides. It is time. It is time to work together to end the bickering, to work together to problem-solve the issues.
I am proud of the educators, administration and School Board in my district. I am proud to see them work together to problem-solve issues, to strive for the best we can under the conditions we are provided. I see innovative lessons being taught – educators and administrators working together to find ways to keep up with the learning styles of today’s students. I see innovative professional development ideas. I see the administrators, the School Board, and the Education Association working together to problem-solve the issues presented to the district in order to best provide for the education of students while maintaining respect for the district employees. I see a school district that strives to better its students and a community that supports its school district.
While I have had moments the last few weeks of feeling disillusioned, I will remain the optimist. I will continue to make my voice heard. I will continue to believe that the voices of the public make a difference. It is time to work together instead of against each other.
Pleasant Plains Education Association