Educators: Thank you for giving

Graves, Gregory * 1378

Dr. Gregory T. Graves,
Associate Executive Secretary

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches I would like to dedicate this article to the men and women who epitomize what it means to give. I want to say something to educators that our lawmakers should have said long ago: Thank you!

Thank you for your selfless dedication to the children of this state, for protecting them, for drying their tears when they scrape their knees, for cheering them on at ball games, and for going to your classrooms on Sunday to get ready to teach on Monday.

Coaches, thank you for fixing little girls’ softball swings and showing our boys how to tie their ties. Bus drivers, thank you for getting our children safely home after field trips, late ball games and marching contests.

Educators I could never thank you enough for buying all those raffle tickets, hams, Girl Scout cookies, and insulated mugs, for buying more playoff shirts than any one person could possibly need, and on top of all that, spending your own money on pencils and soap and supplies for your classroom.

During your Thanksgiving break, pay no mind to those deluded souls who say you take more than you give. I disagree with them with everything I am. Don’t let them get you down. They wouldn’t last a day in your classroom.

In fact, many have never been to your school. You are NOT a drain on this economy; you are a bubbling spring of tomorrow’s prosperity, and a fountain of opportunity for other people’s children.

As educational attainment goes up, crime, teen pregnancy, unemployment, and prison rates all go down. Squalor and ignorance retreat. Social wounds begin to heal. Our state progresses; Alabama’s tomorrow brightens.

What you do, educator, is priceless. Some may argue that you don’t create jobs, but you do create job creators.

Some people don’t understand why you do what you do. They think merit pay will make you work harder, as if you’re holding back. They think the threat of being labeled “unacceptable” will inspire you to care about the quality of your instruction, as if the knowledge that you hold the future in your hands on a daily basis is not incentive enough.

Maybe these sticks and carrots work for bad educators, but they only demoralize the great ones, and there are thousands of you in our schools.

Some have forgotten that good educators exist. They center all of their efforts on weeding out the bad ones and they’ve forgotten to take care of the good ones. This bitter accountability pesticide is akin to over-spraying the weeds and ultimately killing the entire garden.

Educators you stand on the front lines of poverty and plenty, on the front lines of our social stratification. You are the ones who shove your fingers into the gushing wounds of inequality that our leaders won’t even talk about, and you aren’t afraid.

You’re the last of the Good Samaritans, and you aren’t afraid, even as they condemn you for trying but failing to save every last kid in your classroom. You aren’t afraid, and you keep trying, and you haven’t faltered. You deserve to be saluted, to be acclaimed, rather than the ugly scapegoating that privatizers peddle in the media and in the halls of the Alabama legislature.

Teacher, bus driver, coach, lunchroom worker, custodian, maintenance man, aide, secretary, principal, and, yes, even some of you superintendents out there trying to hold it all together—you serve your state with skill and honor and dignity, and I’m sorry that no one in power has the guts to say that these days.

History will recognize that the epithets they applied to your schools said more about leaders who refused to confront child poverty than the teachers who tried valiantly to overcome it.

History will recognize that teachers in these bleak years stood in desperate need of public policy help that never came. Advocacy for hurting children was ripped from our lips with a shush of “no excuses.”

These hateful labels should be hung around the necks of those who have allowed inequitable school funding to persist for decades, those who refuse to tend to the basic needs of our poorest children so that they may come to school ready to learn.

I am told that throughout this country there are over 120,000 kids on a waiting list for charter schools. Let me tell you about another waiting list.

There are millions of kids waiting for our Legislature to keep our forefathers’ promise that every child is entitled to a free and appropriate education. There are millions of children, waiting for somebody in Alabama to stand up for them and uphold the constitution.

Our forefathers’ promises must be kept. To properly achieve this goal we must have fair and adequate resources in our kids’ schools.

We want leaders who don’t have to be dragged to court to do right by our children.

It’s not okay to default on constitutional promises, to neglect schools until they break, to privatize a public school system that strong and generous people built and left to us, or to confiscate buildings built by local taxpayers in order to give them away to cronies.

Our institutions have honorably served their communities for generations and these buildings aren’t just schools, they’re testaments to our local values and are monuments to our community.

They are beacons of our local control, of the togetherness we cherish in our hometowns and city neighborhoods.

We don’t want education fads imposed on us by Michelle Rhee, BAEO, or out-of-state billionaires.

Nearly two years ago, I asked the new legislative majority to compromise for the sake of our children; however, they responded by cutting school funding by millions, by passing laws to destroy tenure and other pro-employee benefits. But help did come: it came from you.

You and the people of Alabama are the soldiers that banned together to defeat charter school legislation. Two years ago began the most vicious cycle of attacks on educators in the history of this state; during that time many things have changed, but you and your dedication to Alabama’s future have not.

You are bravely defending public education: thank you. Let us not go gently into that good night but rather let us stand and fight, and save our schools. May your Thanksgiving be as fulfilling as your dedication to our children.

As always, together we stand.


Date: 11/22/13
Category: Political

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