Education and Politics in Wisconsin

Sadly, Wisconsin is in a bind.

For years, I gave up pay raises and benefits to keep great insurance as a teacher. I willingly traded cash for the best health care for my family. In his first 45 days, our governor announced a bill for public employees to pay more toward their health care in order to balance the budget. Not OUR problem to solve, of course, but an equal opportunity for all Wisconsinites to help balance the budget was not an option. Unfortunately, we understood the dilemma.

Our unions conceded, knowing our public school funding is at an all-time low. Then came the catastrophic decision to end collective bargaining. As of June, I will have no contract, no consideration for 20 years of teaching in the same district, and no reason for my district NOT to cut me and hire a first-year teacher to save $20,000. All this including a file of wonderful evaluations and praise from students and parents that I hold dear.

Every person has an opinion. Wisconsin has successfully recalled their governor and will force another election. Not a proud moment in Wisconsin history. Many shake their heads and wonder what happened. Unions across the state are similarly impacted, except the police and fire unions. Hmmm.

Public supporters of the law say that THOSE teachers deserve it. THEY get paid too much anyway. THOSE teachers are awful, and then they identify one bad apple. THOSE teachers should have to pay like the rest of us. (Meaning those who did AND did not go to college.)

I am a professional. I have a bachelor’s degree in my field. I have a master’s degree in my field. I have 20 years experience in my field. I have to renew my license with college courses or a PDP every five years to stay current. I have to stay abreast of every change and new method in order to best meet my students’ needs. Yet, I chose a low-paying job because I love what I do. I really do.

Yet, this whole situation makes me feel ashamed to admit I’m an educator because (now) some people who pay taxes think they own a piece of the school system. It’s not OK to be treated as any other worker. The teaching profession is a licensed profession for a reason. Not many could (or would) do what I do. Trust me, parent volunteers rarely come back.

I implore the public to understand what it’s like to tackle today’s tasks. I am a parent and caregiver, as well as a teacher, most days. Honestly, I am. Some kids have so much baggage that my lesson on adjectives is unattainable. Students are in school eight hours a day. Some of my students don’t get eight hours with a parent throughout the whole work week. It’s sad, but completely true. A school is a multi-million dollar institution that holds our children’s future and skills in its hands.

Every person went to school, so they think they understand what it takes. Believe me, I went to college in the 80′s and 90′s for education and the world of education today is hardly the same I was trained for – good and bad.