Education and dedication go hand in hand
By Dr. Gregory T. Graves, AEA Associate Executive Secretary
The events of the last week of January highlight, in clear terms, what we mean when we say that educators serve the children of Alabama. When I speak of educators, know that I mean everyone employed within our public schools – teachers, custodians, secretaries, counselors, CNP workers, media specialists, bus drivers, principals, paraprofessionals – everyone. When the ice storm hit Alabama last week, everyone stepped up to truly serve the needs of our students.
Many of you lived through the event by spending the night at school to keep students safe when parents could not reach them. Others of you sat on a bus, stuck for hours, working to keep children safe and calm. For your acts of dedication and service, we cannot thank you enough. If you were one of the lucky ones who did not have snow and ice, I’m sure you’ve seen or heard accounts of your colleagues’ actions, or may read them within the pages of the Journal over the next few weeks. The efforts of the men and women who brought safety and comfort to thousands of stranded students illustrate the limitless dedication of educators in this state.
I know firsthand that educators do not seek fame or validation, but I would be negligent if I did not publicly commend you for not only giving your services, but giving yourselves as well. As I have stated repeatedly, any politician, corporate entity, school reformer, board member or any other “expert” that talks about how AEA and educators only “focus on what’s best for teachers and support workers,” is obviously out of touch with reality, not concerned with the truth, or both. Nothing about this past week was about what was best for the adults. What was best for them was to get in their cars and make their way home to their families; yet, when they realized that the children they serve would be unable to travel home, they did what was best for those children, by staying, and making sure they were safe and as comfortable as possible.
The teachers and principals who spent the night (some of them two in a row) at their schools won’t get a dime of overtime. While the Legislature passed a resolution thanking them, resolutions don’t pay the bills. If legislators really want to show their thanks and appreciation for what educators do, they will show them in the most tangible and concrete way there is: they will pass the six percent cost of living raise that AEA advocates.
It is simple. The money is there if the Legislature wants you to have it. The majority leadership complains that the money isn’t there; however, that simply is not true. We have published in this Journal, how six percent is very doable. We are certain that there is a “way,” the question is whether there is a “will.”
Speaking of the selfless acts of educators, Charles “Chuck” Poland Appreciation Day was to be celebrated on January 29. Due to the storm, the ceremony was rescheduled for February 5. It was one year ago on January 29 when a gunman boarded Mr. Poland’s school bus. Mr. Poland laid down his life to defend his precious cargo. The Legislature designated January 29 as a day for citizens to “remember the sacrifice of Charles A. Poland, Jr., and express thanks to all public school bus drivers.”
Selflessness and heroism is an implied part of the job description of an educator. It can mean everything from staying after school to help a struggling student, reporting an abusive home situation, turning schools into emergency shelters with no notice, to literally taking a bullet for a student.
Thus, when educators simply ask to be paid a decent wage befitting the professionals they are and the services they perform, and when the money is available to do so, legislators should never hesitate. However, the bunch in charge now is doing just that. With the Governor suggesting two percent and various legislators saying the money is not there for any raise, they simply are not valuing you or your service.
Call your legislators and demand six percent. You each deserve a lot more, but this is what is doable today. It will at least get you even, after your two-and-a-half percent pay cut and inflation, to what you were making before this group took over. It is right, it is fair, and it is affordable.
As always, together we stand.
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