Where Are The Teachers?

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is navigating the process of selecting a new superintendent.

According to recent reports by the Advocate, a "strategic subcommittee" has been formed which conspicuously includes: Michael Tipton, a TFA executive director; Chris Meyer, former TFAer and DOE special adviser to former state Superintendent Paul Pastorek; and Kimberly Williams, legal director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (the exec. director of LAPC is Caroline Shirley Roemer, sister of BESE member Charles Roemer). Not only is there conflict of interests here, but community input and control of their public schools is, once again, being subverted by these special interests with a very focused agenda to privatize our public schools.


I noted that one of the comments following the article made by a writer identified as TRAVELER, suggested that teachers were not interested or concerned enough in the public school "transformation" to pack the chambers of the Capitol or to march in huge numbers to protest. This is my response to his comment:

Comment by lbarrios - Saturday, August 27, 2011

Traveler and others: As a teacher and avid participant in the legislative process for the last two years, your perception that teachers are disinterested in the process is off base.

Teachers are no different from any other "special interest group." In order for their voices to be heard, they have selected representation. Unions, like any other lobbying group, are paid for their expertise, ability to negotiate the complicated legislative system, and the reality of power in numbers. Their ability to inform, influence, and advocate for members and their position that the democratic governance of public schools must be maintained for the benefit of all children, society and the economy has, of course, been undermined by the corporate interests and so-called free enterprise educrats because they are a threat to their privatization efforts and profit motives.

As a teacher, I know firsthand the futility of trying to influence legislators. I have bit my tongue when some have commented openly that they haven't heard from their teacher constituents on issues when I am inundated with copies of forwarded correspondence from teachers to them and I spend full time collaborating with educators at all levels in the state about their concerns regarding the takeover of our public school system.

Teachers are not in the business of politics and most are ill equipped professionally or emotionally to "negotiate" with their representatives in that specialized process. By the same token, legislators (and many of our unqualified education policymakers) lack any conceptual, pedagogical or real life understanding of education and the process of learning. Our attempts to reason with them fall on deaf ears.

School boards represent the democractic process in action and their members and committees should not be lead or unduly influenced by special interest groups with an agenda that is counterproductive to their mission - maintaining a community and culture that promotes and supports equity and excellence in the education of their youth and our future.
The seemingly innocent but pernicious infiltration of and influence on our public education local governance structure by the Teach for America "Corporation," free-enterprise-for-all enthusiasts, and even misguided or misinformed but sincere advocates for much-needed reforms in education threatens to destroy a stable, child-centered, education structure (public education) that has grown and improved so much over the years and is now available to all children regardless of race, socio-economic status, or intellectual/physical ability.

The public needs to understand the importance of maintaining the local elected governance structure of our school system, full and equitable funding, accountability and transparency, meaningful, innovative and effective reform based on proven education principles and teacher, family and community leaders forming public school policy and curriculum.

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