Sunday, June 9, 2013

Public Servants

Port Orford/Langlois 2cj school board, and superintendent, 2009.

Four of the seven members are still on the board this coming term. With each member, we gain new insights and perspectives, but we lose history and understanding of past issues.  Being a member of a school board is probably the first public elective office most people experience.

This job will open your eyes about what public servants endure as school teachers and administrators,

Some members of the board  will run for other offices and continue a political career they started at this level. Others have children in school and their interest is to see that their children get the best education possible. It will take a few years, studying many issues, before the complexity of the job and the enormity of our responsibility are understood.

Working with limited budgets, dwindling enrollment, a national agenda that has emphasized assessment rather than opportunities, a public disinterest in taxing itself to improve the common good, a public servant has an uphill battle to fight at all levels of politics.

Add to this mix the fact that for decades, at the national level, the trend to dismantle public education in favor of charter schools, or to support and encourage independent schools run by for-profit corporations with public funds and no public oversight, all of which is sold to individuals as the only way to improve public schools, all of this means trouble for public entities. We have already dropped our financial support to a point where school buildings are crumbling, buses eat up a big chunk of the budget, and local municipalities are scrambling to pass bonds to maintain basic services.

If you add health care woes and a citizenry that is getting grayer and less concerned with the needs of the youth, problems will never be addressed by the local politicians.

Who is to blame? Why the employees, and their unions, who dared to ask for raises and for a duty-free half hour lunch! Not!!!

We have forgotten that public servants have a vested interest in their jobs,  committing their own money and resources to support their classrooms, and who, when they retire will live on a meager pension that was never enhanced with bonuses, stock options, matching 401K investment funds.

Does the public understand that these folks were serving them loyally for decades, often just earning enough money to skip over the poverty line, paying off their student loans slowly, taking summer jobs to live to September, and when everyone was gloriously cashing in their bonuses and paid vacations, they lived on a meager salary that paid them only for the nine months in front of children, and not for all the preparation time that it took to collect materials and organize lessons.

Ask your local teachers how much stuff of theirs is stored in their garages. Every teacher I know has boxes and boxes of materials and lesson plans stashed away in their homes, books they bought to enhance reading, workbooks to assist with math, projects for science and history, and innumerable stashes of supplies for those days when the office runs out of everything, sometime around March.

One of my children has been teaching over twenty years, and his salary was less than what his younger brother was offered on his first job. Teachers, on the average, make less than twenty dollars an hour.

If we just remember that every one of our citizens has a vote in this country, we should be concerned about his literacy and thinking skills, his commitment to the public good, his understanding of what a community can be if everyone is equally involved and equally educated.


Perpetua said...

I feel like sending this post to the teaching unions in the UK so that they can see what their American counterparts have to deal with! Life isn't easy for British teachers either, but at least they have a year-round salary and don't normally have to supplement classroom materials from their own pockets like this. An eye-opening post for this transatlantic reader, Rosaria.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Excellent post, Rosaria! You make some very important points -- not only about the sacrifices teachers so often make to do what they do but also the crumbling of the educational infrastructure and loss of funding for schools at a time when educational resources are so critically needed. Why can't some people understand that what affects the young and the quality of their education affects us all?

Brian Miller said...

its a glorified baby sitting job with the expectation that we will get students if disinterested parents to achieve scores well above what they are times...not always but being a teacher is interesting to say the least...i love it...but it is a poor man's job for sure...

i would not want to be on the school board...ours recently had to cut sports programs due to budget...of course there was public outcry...then the teachers who have not had a raise, not even cost of living in over 5 years...when a raise was brought up it was another outcry, why pay them more...nothing but greedy teachers...ugh...

Cloudia said...

Extremely Well Stated!

Aloha, my dear friend

Helen said...

Bold and brave ... a great post!!! Amid the inequities teachers face, I read in our newspaper this morning that nearly 40% of Oregon high school graduates DO NOT attend college! We should be at the 80% level.

Unknown said...


Munir said...

I wanted to be a teacher and have a BA degree from India. New York State wants me to get sixty more credits and I could not afford to go back to college.

the walking man said...

Let's see our state lottery was started about 30 years ago specifically for the funding of schools. It in the first full year raked in about a billion---now twelve.

Somewhere along the line someone decided that it was too much money for education so they ut it in the general fund and now fund according to the number of pupils in attendance on Sept 9 or the closest Monday.

We fund at $7345 per student state wide, some of the wealthier places kick in a couple of mils more.

Last month it was discovered that the governor had a secret panel with 4 of his people on it called "skunk works" which was trying to reduce that funding down to $5000 per pupil and if they could find a privatized school that would accept them for less than that amount then the kid got to spend the excess on extracurricular activities.

Oh I could go on but you mentioned them all, charters which you have to test into, for profits which you have to test into and then the public schools which take the rest.

I tutor two days a week 4 kindergartners and 2 1st graders and as long as they stay at "my school" I will work with them on literacy until the end of 3rd grade.

The state nor the Federal government supply any kid a free or subsidized meal that does not come out of their $7345. Of course if there are field trips that's extra, if the parent can't or won't pay the kid doesn't even have a library to go to, they just sort of hang out in the cafeteria and kept quiet by those folks.

Yes our Republican governor is a real piece of work, before he became governor (his first elected office) we find it was specifically him that loaded Gateway computers up with debt as capital, the investment banks (his) took their pile, broke it up and sold the functioning divisions to China (ACER Computers) and let the rest go chap 11.

Of course all the employees lost everything except their final paycheck.

And NOW he has both the Detroit Public School system AND the city itself under a 1 man ruler he benevolently calls an emergency manager. So far 64 schools have been closed and if usable sold to charter or for profit schools where there are no unions, a 9 month pay that can not be spread over 12 months and no state financial assistance for the teachers of all schools (including those in prisons) for the continuing education they need to maintain their teaching certification.

And this punk has the gall to strip education right after he says all the jobs in the state would be filled if we only had kids coming out of college who wanted to stay here. of course every August every state college raises their tuition without fail 1-3%.

Of my 6 though all improved markedly and two actually blew the roof off their doesn't count assessment tests. They will be reading Dostoevsky by 2nd grade!

Maggie May said...

Yes, I've known teachers like that. Bringing their boxes full of things back to their garage.
Over here, schools tend to get rid of all the senior staff and get newly qualified teachers on lower pay and put them on short term contracts. This is cheaper but has a detrimental effect on the pupils and staff alike.
Gone are secure jobs for life. Everything is short term and as cheap as possible.
Maggie x

Nuts in May

yaya said...

Such a hot topic...on both sides of this..but our community has a wonderful base of good teachers. We, personally, had 2 bad instances with teachers when my kids were in school, but on the most part we were lucky with a supporting community that passed levies and much is given for those, teachers included, who need help. The past few years we had a levy that would not pass for a new high school...we needed a new middle school more than a high school. After many failed attempts, the school board took the communities suggestions, views, pros and con, and put a new middle school and grade school on the passed because it's what was the best for our town. I would never want to be in the shoes of our board members during these tough decision times. I'm grateful for those who serve and also remember that "we" vote them in and must be on the ball too. Good things can happen when a community pulls together.

RNSANE said...

It has also pained me that those entrusted with the education of our children are so poorly paid. My three sons all went to public school and got an amazingly good education from a group of dedicated, underpaid individuals who went above and beyond the call of duty in the classroom. I am eternally in their debt.

troutbirder said...

An excellent summary of the issues and problems facing public education in recent decades. As a former teacher and negotiater I had mostly positive dealings with school board members who have a generally thankless and difficult job. The only ones who were useless were those with an ax to grind. Usually involving their innocent and blameless child who was being "picked" on by a teacher...