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YARBROUGH: Legislators cut-and-run on public schools

State legislators cut and run on public schools

Dear Public School Teachers: The "school choice" crowd in the General Assembly is after you again. I am beginning to think this is all your fault.

Evidently, you did something to them in their prepubescent period that has scarred them for life. Maybe you caught them smoking in the bathroom or smooching in the hall. Whatever the reason, they are getting even with you. Did you know that many of the "school choice" advocates don't even send their kids to those icky public schools they once attended? I'll bet now you wish you hadn't been so hard on the little darlings.

And now this: State Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, said that when adjusted for the cost of living, you rank first in the nation in teacher salary and benefits. (Brief pause while you catch your breath.) Here is a suggestion: On your next field trip -- assuming your school can afford one -- you and the kids should visit Milton and see first-hand the Ivory Tower in which she resides.

By the way, the Atlanta newspapers checked out her claim and determined it was (another brief pause while you catch your breath) not accurate. The newspaper said there are too many variables to support her claim. If Jones would like to dig into this issue a little further, I would suggest you show her your pay stubs over the past several years and see what the combination of unpaid furlough days and increased costs of living have done to your lofty financial position.

I'm not quite sure what her point was -- if there indeed was one -- but if Jan Jones thinks it is money that motivates you, she is smoking rope. You teach because teaching is an honorable if unappreciated profession in which you can change young lives and you do it despite being treated like second-class citizens by the Legislature. Maybe we would all be better served if legislators devoted some time and attention to evaluating your morale. If they are too busy, I'll give them a hint: It is in the dumper, thanks to the lack of support you receive and cracks about how highly compensated you are.

Rep. Jones has been the driving force behind the recent effort in the General Assembly to establish a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to create charter schools. She says that new charter schools would not take money from existing school districts but she hasn't shared with us where the dollars will come from. Maybe it will come from the $1 billion that has been cut from those systems by the Legislature, but I am betting on the Easter Bunny.

I have no problem with charter schools. There are over150 in operation in the state already. My problem is giving the state more control over who receives a charter and who doesn't. The politicians claim charter schools will have freedom from many of the state and local regulations that hamper public schools. Here's a novel thought: Why don't they pass a few laws to get rid of those regulations? They are, after all, lawmakers, aren't they?

When politicians talk about charter schools, private school vouchers, taxpayer-funded scholarships to private schools, virtual learning and the like as alternatives to public schools, they are avoiding the real issue. If public schools have a problem beyond a lack of funding, it is not in the job you are doing. It is that you are doing it in the real world.

Not only do you have legislators telling you how well-off you are financially and not to sweat the unpaid furlough days and budget cuts, they conveniently forget that your school is a microcosm of society. Unlike your private school cousins who can pick and choose their students and get rid of the ones who don't play by the institution's rules, you have to deal with the hand you are given: From apathetic and absentee parents to drugs and poverty, to criticism from ignoramuses who couldn't do your job on their most lucid day. The Legislature's response seems to be to encourage parents to cut and run rather than stay and help fix the problems.

Public school teachers, I hope you will hang in there while "school choice" legislators slice and dice your schools to pieces. Just remember that in spite of the Legislature's best -- or, is it worst? -- efforts, they can't stop you from continuing to influence young lives for the better. After all, isn't that why you get the big bucks?

Email columnist Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/dickyarbrough.