Friday, March 4, 2011

Open Season on Public Schools

A major responsibility of a school leader is to face the fiscal issues that can underlie the needs of your school district, and manage things in a responsible and accountable manner. The challenge of leading a school program amidst the recession we are in has tasked many school administrators. With unsupportive remarks from Governors in Wisconsin, New Jersey and New York it is no wonder there is an uproar against public education in general. There is part of me that cannot help feel that this is a planned strategy among politicians in general to shift the focus off of the crooks and greedy individuals that created this "great recession" and blame it on public employees. This is all some big diversionary ruse that provides cover to the Wall Street bankers and incompetent legislators that allowed them to rob the American people of their savings and their futures. Blame the public schools for this crisis and everyone guilty gets off free. Sounds like it would make a great movie. Isn't there one out there called the Adjustment Bureau? Maybe we are all in this movie looking out on our distorted reality.

Well, let's face some reality issues we can deal with. Blaming the incompetent elected officials at all levels will not solve the problems. As school administrators we have to deal in the reality of providing a sound education to every child that walks into our school each day. In some cases that means being able to provide all kinds of services, such as health, nutrition, social work, counseling, as well as ELA, math, and other key areas for a complete education. Many of our states also mandate that the people to provide these services and programs need to be certified/licensed and possessing a comprehensive educational program summarized in degree programs such as Bachelors and Masters degrees. This is approximately 8 years of education beyond high school and some of us even possess National Board Certification and Doctoral degrees, capping off the time spent being trained in our vocation around 10-12 years of study. The financial commitment made by anyone that enters this career in 2011 money is well into the six figure area, with huge loans covering a massive debt in order to teach and work with our country's most important resource, our children. And still, we are accused of being paid too much?

There was a great article in Education Week recently that articulates this issue very well.
"Why do we think less of teachers? Teaching is no less portable a profession than medicine, and if teachers don't like what they're getting in one place, they can take their talents elsewhere. This should be the core argument of educators in Wisconsin, Indiana, and elsewhere: If we underpay teachers, they will leave, and they'll be replaced by subpar people who have fewer options. The quality of our education system will suffer, and we'll have to either pay much more to attract talent in the future, or we'll have to pay the consequences of an inferior education system in the long run, such as higher rates of incarceration and unemployment. I believe that educators should be paid well and treated well. But it's critical to frame this as a human capital issue, not a workers' rights issue. The public is not sympathetic to workers' rights, because everyone is a worker, and most people do not have nearly the level of "rights" that teachers and other unionized public-sector employees enjoy." (.Baeder, J. (February 27, 2011). Pay Cuts for Professionals: On Human Capital, Not Workers' Rights. EDUCATION WEEK retrieved February 27, 2011 at

Isn't that what the bigger issue is? We have seen our career as educators devalued in the eyes of those people that need our expertise most. How swiftly the tides change!

The best advice I can offer as an educator that is approaching the end of my career is that administrators have to support their teachers and encourage them to get through this criticism by doing what they do so well, each day. Make the education of their students special and the most important thing in that child's day. Maybe there might be a future governor in that class that will remember the importance of that wonderful teacher, and that great school experience, and maybe her or his actions will speak from the positive experiences they had in school, and not the bitterness engendered from the current elected officials of our society.