Welcome back. Many of our members who work in education are back in their schools already. Some still have a day or two before returning, but the air is thick with summer memories and hopefulness for the fresh start of a new school year. Thank you for spending much of your summer in classes to improve and expand your skills as educators, in conferences to learn how to better serve our students, and preparing all the things you know make your classroom more engaging and rewarding.
Your commitment to education is admirable. For years now, we have been telling legislators, the media, and everyone who will listen that the demands of teaching are becoming so great that the teaching profession is in danger. A recent New York Times article about teacher shortages verifies our concerns. As AFT President Randi Weingarten replied though, the problems are much deeper than economics. The factors driving teachers out of the profession have much more to do with the lack of autonomy that teachers have in their profession and the growing demands of an unfair accountability system that is based on test scores rather than on the true value that teachers, paraprofessionals, and education support staff bring to the life of a child.
Though teachers have had little to no input into the policies that are destroying our system, we still get the blame. Anyone who listened to the Republican presidential debates heard at least three candidates – Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie- brag about taking on the teachers unions. Can we seriously question why we have so many problems with our education system when the people who seek to lead our country want to build a system that shuts out the professionals’ voices?
We cannot just blame one person, one party, or one branch of government for everything that is wrong in education though. There is much blame to be spread. That’s why your voices matter so much. Instead of putting all our faith and hope into a person or party, we must coalesce around issues and demand that our voices be heard.
We have a perfect opportunity to do this with charter reform in Ohio. We need to speak loudly in support of House Bill 2. This legislation will create strong accountability for charter schools in Ohio – an important start to taming what many have come to call the “wild, wild west” of charter schools.
HB 2 is waiting the one act that will make it law – your state Representatives must vote to “concur.” This will combine and adopt all of the strong elements of this bill with improvements approved by the Senate into one substantial new set of ways to hold charter operators accountable for the public dollars they get from us and the academic results they produce – or don’t.
Your state Representatives failed to make this happen when they went on summer break without voting. Shameful, yes. But we can’t let them think that we forgot about this issue over the summer. Our students may sometime experience a summer slide, but we remember clearly how the legislator abruptly passed an amended HB 70 to allow public school districts to be turned over to charters, yet failed to pass charter school reform. We need to strongly remind them that Ohio is long overdue for charter reform.
Your state Representatives are in your neighborhood now. While still off for the summer, your state Representatives are home, in the districts where they represent you. In your hometown. You should go talk to them. Visit them in their hometown office or invite them to your school. Tell them how important it is to our students that the state make sure public dollars are not wasted, mismanaged or embezzled because there are lots of other schools where students do very well and could use more resources and support.
Charter schools get more than $1 billion of our public tax funds each year, yet news story after news story expose profiteers running away with the money, or simply point out that the vast majority of charter operations fail to educate students. This is unfair to students, their families and taxpayers.
Tell your state Representative to concur on House Bill 2. Call them. Meet with them. Tweet at them using their Twitter handle and the hashtag #concurHB2. Post comments on their Facebook pages. Tell them to concur on HB2 as their first order of business when the House reconvenes session.
Your voice matters on this issue and will matter in many issues yet to come. We need you to join the chorus and make a difference. Raise your voice – now.