Here's a guest contributor, Wythe County's Tyler Blount, in response to an op/ed that recently appeared in the Wytheville Enterprise:
“Public education is under attack” writes Wythe County Education Association Co-President Denise Davis in the last edition of the Enterprise leading the Virginia Education Association to deem Friday, Feb. 17th as “Black Friday” or “VEA day of mourning” and teachers to “wear black for a statewide day of mourning” at the “the loss of respect accorded teachers by our elected officials.” Ms. Davis states “our legislators have shown open disrespect and disdain” for teachers who are under “assault” and “continued attack”.Thanks for contributing to the dialogue, Tyler.
How so, you might ask? By proposing changes to teacher contracts allowing annual performance evaluations like most private sector employers, requiring teachers to pay the five percent employee contribution to the Virginia Retirement System and proposing state tax credits for private corporations that donate scholarships so low income students may attend private schools.
Despite all the smoke screen offered by Ms. Davis concerning teacher tenure being the equivalent of due process it is virtually impossible to fire a public school teacher for poor performance. House bill 576 limiting continuing contracts for teachers passed the house by a vote of 55 to 43 and is now before the Senate Committee on Education and Health.
The “educational improvement scholarships bill” Ms. Davis opposes is patterned after a ten year old highly successful Florida law making private school education possible for over forty thousand deserving Florida students. It also introduced competition to the public school monopoly explaining the VEA’s all too predictable opposition. This bill has already passed the VA House of Delegates by a wide margin of 64 to 35.
Having home schooled five children over a twenty-three year period here in Wythe County and having a son in law with teaching experience in a private Christian school I know an excellent education can be achieved at one fifth to one half the per pupil expense of public schools. Hundreds of thousands of students educated “outside the box” of public schools have excellent academic records at the nation’s best colleges and universities.
I appreciate the difficult task public school teachers face with an increasing number of students from unhealthy and challenging family backgrounds but frankly tire of the VEA/NEA’s entrenched resistance to change. Efforts to reform public schools and increase accountability inevitably meet with institutionalized recalcitrance and the same tired old mantra of "throw us more money" amid patently ridiculous cries of "attack". Are we to believe that our duly elected representatives whose very own children, grandchildren, relatives, friend and neighbors are among the “94.8 percent of Virginia’s children” who attend public schools are truly out to destroy our schools?
Ms. Davis asks “when will our elected officials realize that teachers are our job creators? We lay the foundation for every occupation.” In response, I would suggest that our Creator endows us with gifts and callings and our families incubate these God-given talents. Individual creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and personal initiative lead to job creation. Inculcating a love of learning and designing a flexible and personally tailored education for individuals is not a hallmark of public schools.
Private sector employers continually complain of an unprepared work force and look outside the US for skilled workers in science and technology. The National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that one-third or less of eighth-graders were proficient in math, science, or reading. ACT, the college-admissions test organization, recently found that 76% of high-school graduates “were not adequately prepared academically for first-year college courses.”
Ms. Davis complains that public school teachers “now…are to teach with the knowledge that our jobs may not be secure and our retirement benefits may not be as sure as they once were and funding may continue to decrease.” Welcome to the everyday reality for those of us in the private sector.
The VEA/NEA are unabashed champions and tireless advocates of one political party who sow millions of dollars in campaign cash and grass roots support with near exclusivity to Democrats. This Democrat-only partisan political action has consequences and pointedly so when the other party occupies all three executive offices and controls the Virginia House and Senate. If the VEA/NEA would truly concentrate on their motto “we teach the children” and not embrace policies and politicians hell-bent on destroying the family and the free enterprise system they might enjoy greater academic success and broad-based support. Resorting to political stunts like “Black Friday” and the spectacle of unruly mobs in the streets (Indiana and Wisconsin) played out before the watching eyes of the children does not help their cause. Increasing support for public education in a sputtering economy with trillions of dollars in national debt and continuing out-of-control spending will require greater cooperation from teacher unions and a willingness to embrace change. A tree is known by its fruit and “wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
For details on HB 576 go here.