As anyone who reads these pages regularly knows, I bend over backwards to defend educators. And I am hardly reluctant to speak out about lawmakers when they misstep.
However, I do not wear rose-colored glasses, nor do I think lawmakers have horns and have a natural dislike for teachers, schools and students. Which is another way of saying that I often believe educators may be their own worst enemy when it comes to what happens in the Alabama Statehouse.
The late, great RAISE/PREP bill pushed by Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh being exhibit A.
This was a terrible piece of legislation. Very poorly crafted. Originally intended to use the controversial Value Added Model to evaluate teachers and tie pay to student performance.
As is common these days, no professional educators had input into this bill when it was being put together.
More than 5,000 people signed an on-line petition done by a teacher in the Saraland system opposing it. Newspapers editorialized against it.. And a special mention should go to my friend, Jennifer Brown, a science teacher at Vestavia Hills high and the 2015-2016 Alabama Teacher of the Year, for the work she did in generating emails and phone calls from the education community to legislators.
However, truth is that I don’t blame Del Marsh for trying to pass this bill given the fact the supermajority passed the accountability act and in the next election of 2014 the education community basically rolled over and played dead..
Even though this is questionable legislation and has now diverted $66 million from the Education Trust Fund, when the 2014 legislative races came along those who supported AAA were largely given a pass by educators. Only a handful of folks who voted for this bill were defeated.
And if you give legislative leadership a foot, they will certainly take a mile. Or, if we got away with something the last time, let’s try it again.
This is where things get interesting. Probably 95 percent of all teachers at some point heard an inner voice telling them their life’s work should be working with children.
So teachers are most comfortable in the classroom. Their world is four walls and a room full of wiggly bodies. But I believe times like these call for more and more educators to venture outside their comfort zone.
A virtual tsunami of bills about education were introduced in the 2016 regular legislative session.. Besides RAISE, we had bills to create Educational Savings Accounts, create a statewide Longitudinal Data System, to allow the governor to appoint the state superintendent of education, to eliminate the Alabama College & Career Ready standards, to make sure children are taught cursive writing, an amendment to appoint–not elect–the state school board and on and on.
People who work in classrooms and schools are the real education experts. Not some lobbyist with a fistful of money from Michigan or California. It is time for these good folks to stand up for each other, for their profession–and certainly for their students.
It is impossible for a legislator to be as well informed on all topics as we expect them to be. And if they are not up to speed concerning education, it is the fault of educators.
A suggestion. Adopt a legislator.
Schools and those in them should go out of their way to tell a state representative or senator what you do and what education these days is all about. Send them a birthday cake on their birthday. Invite them to speak at a PTO or faculty meeting. Send them notes and emails about the things your students are doing and achieving.
And do whatever it takes to get them to visit your school and spend time in classrooms.
Don’t keep looking in the mirror and wondering why lawmakers don’t know what you do.