By Robby Stern
My wife, Dina, has been a school nurse at a middle school in Renton for five years. Previously, she was at the outpatient pediatric clinic at Harborview for 20 years, and worked at several other jobs as a pediatric nurse and labor and delivery nurse. She is an amazingly caring human being and we are lucky to have her delivering health care to our children.
All of this is an introduction to why I am so angry at the “educational reformers” who attack our teachers and our public schools.
Dina is a veteran nurse. She has seen it all! She has first-hand knowledge of the physical and emotional challenges confronted by the children in our schools. She is deeply aware of the obstacles faced by students, teachers and staff in the schools.
While talking over the dinner table in the evening, sometimes my mouth and the mouth of my father in law (who lives with us) literally drop open at the complexity of the day to day challenges faced by our educators.
Bill Gates, Arnie Duncan and all the “experts” and politicians who think they know best should spend a school year in our schools (not one of their expensive private schools) and really learn the challenges faced by people who are devoting their lives to public education. The Seattle Times editorial writers frequently discuss how the legislature failed our children by not requiring the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. Have any of these journalists spent really significant time in these schools?
Lack of resources is obviously a huge issue. We need additional caring people in the schools to help. Besides smaller class sizes, we need social services to provide support to kids in the schools as well as providing support to parents to assist them in assisting their kids.
Teaching is incredibly stressful. Teachers put in much more time than just the time they spend in the classroom. They also make significant financial sacrifices, as does my wife, in purchasing supplies that are needed and are not covered through the school budgets.
I believe there needs to be a sabbatical system where after certain number of years, teachers can get time off with pay to recharge. Some might say that they get summers off but because of teacher pay scales, many, if not most teachers have to find other work during the summer and besides that, the summer break is really not sufficient to recharge. The school year for most school employees finishes at the end of June and they are back planning and working by the beginning of August.
We should be honoring our educators, not by just simply saying “we honor our educators”. Words are cheap and the politicians and corporate types (in which I include the Seattle Times Editorial Board) can talk but they do not put their money where their mouth is.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary case that the Washington state constitution declared funding of K-12 education the paramount constitutional duty of the state. We can anticipate that a large number and perhaps a majority of legislators will declare that they have to cut social and health programs to meet the constitutional mandate.
If these elected leaders think we will make progress in educating our children by cutting health care and social services to increase education funding, they are wrong. Our kids and families need additional services, not less services, in order for the kids to be able to come to school ready and able to learn and be successful.
The corporate educational reformers could volunteer to give up their tax breaks that the legislature has handed out like candy in a candy store and join the effort to close tax loop holes. They could fight (like a few of them have done) for a fairer taxing system, making the wealthy pay their fair share. But instead, we can look forward to the next Seattle Times editorial that shamelessly carries the water for their owner, by advocating for the repeal of the Washington inheritance tax. Many of these corporate types do everything they can to avoid taxes while criticizing our educators. (Microsoft has gazillions of $$s in off shore accounts!)
Thank you teachers, administrators and support staff in our public schools. Through your work, you truly are trying to make our communities a better place to live.
Upcoming Legislative Session
PSARA will be active in the 2015 legislative session. Many critical decisions are on the docket including the passage of a state operating budget, transportation budget and capital budget to cover the period from July, 2015 to the end of June, 2017. PSARA’s lobbyist, Pam Crone, will be our eyes and ears in Olympia, advocating on our behalf on the issues we prioritize.
There are some critical races in November that will determine the direction the legislature will go during the 2015 session. Besides reading the interview with state AFL-CIO president Jeff Johnson in this issue of the Advocate, take a look at the website of the WA State Labor Council, AFL/CIO and other progressive groups to see who they have endorsed and what races they have designated as critical. Please consider responding to their requests for assistance during this campaign season.
You can also help us formulate PSARA’s legislative priorities for the 2015 legislative session. PSARA’s Government Relations Committee (to which all PSARA members are welcome) will present a list of legislative priorities to PSARA’s Executive Board. In turn, these priorities will be presented to our membership at the Legislative Conference to be held on Wednesday, November 12 from 10 a.m. to noon at the offices of UFCW 21.
Please sign up to attend the conference and also plan to participate with us when we ask you to be active during the legislative session.