Corporate reformers out-of-step with Alabamians

By Dr. Henry C. Mabry, AEA Executive Secretary

As the charter school and corporate education movements have picked up steam across America and in Alabama, the demonization of teachers has been the focus of those trying to bilk public school dollars.

Year after year, we fight for legislation that would provide better working conditions, salary improvements, and recognition of the fact that teachers are professionals. For four years, we have fought against legislation designed to debilitate educators and hurt our public schools.

Rather than work together to elevate educators to a position of stature and to recognize that teachers mold our children for the future, educators are being made the scapegoats for everything wrong in our schools.

Despite the rhetoric coming from such disgraced school “reformers” as Michelle Rhee and her billionaire backers, the average Alabamian feels pretty darn good about the public school teacher who is in charge of their child’s classroom.

A scientific poll conducted by the Capital Survey Research Center shows that Alabamians appreciate the educators in their schools and recognize needs that have gone unmet.

Legislators who are so anxious to hand over our public school money to private schools through vouchers should pay close attention to this survey.

It is a fact that most new teachers leave the profession after five years. The major reasons reported for teachers leaving education include: lack of parental support (96 percent), lack of respect for teachers (96 percent), and working conditions (93 percent).

Still, two-thirds of voters have trust and confidence in their local school teachers. That should support the confidence of teachers who are devoted to their profession and are committed to their students, despite the recent lack of support from the Legislature.

Trust and confidence in teachers is solid across all demographic variables — except for parents with children in private schools or who home-school.

A majority of voters give A-B grades to their local community schools and B-C grades to state and national schools.

The biggest problems identified for local schools include funding (20 percent), discipline (12 percent), and the need for good teachers (12 percent).

Seventy-two percent of those surveyed believe public schools should be improved rather than providing options such as vouchers to abandon public schools. Sixty-seven percent cited the need for schools to offer a broad curricula, including art and music, rather than just the basics.

According to the poll, support for improving our community schools shows up across all demographic variables — party identification, age, race, gender, and income. Those surveyed were equally divided on whether it is better to have local or state standards, regulations, and policies and generally believe greater local flexibility would improve local school quality.

Respondents opposed allowing local school systems to shorten the school day, hire non-certified teachers, and contract with private companies to run Alabama schools. They marginally support local curriculum control, local personnel policies, and budget flexibility.

As for the Alabama Education Association, 59 percent believe AEA helps public schools and public school employees.

The polling data confirms overwhelming public support for the teaching profession and Alabama teachers. Unfortunately, we continue to read anti-teacher comments in editorial columns and listen to comments by politicians and so-called education “experts” about teacher incompetence. Politicians who have barely set foot in a school since they attended one now have become experts on school reform. How is it that our politicians rarely include education professionals when deciding how to fund or evaluate our schools?

Tenure is also a hot topic, yet most do not realize that the guarantee it provides is not a lifetime job but due process, the right to an impartial hearing.

It appears obvious that most of the criticism of education is from people who do not understand that the advancements made in society are determined by the education of its people.

Our teachers need and deserve to be treated as a top priority from our state’s leaders. We must wonder if that will happen again given the toxic conditions being created by the Michelle Rhees of this country and those working to profit from our public schools instead of trying to help them.

Our polling results are clear. Alabamians support our public schools. Hopefully, their opinions will translate into creating a different environment in Montgomery during the next four years.

Date: 07/11/14
Category: Political

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