0

YARBROUGH: An open letter to georgia's public school teachers

Dick Yarbrough

Dick Yarbrough

I write to applaud you for having made it through another year in Georgia's public schools. Good for you. Frankly, I wonder sometimes why you do what you do and then I remember that you are changing young lives for the better. Not many of us can make that claim.

Your rewards for your efforts are unpaid furlough days, larger class sizes, no pay increases (but increased expenses) and a second-guessing public that seems to feel you should be able to stop all of society's ills at the classroom door. And then there are the politicians who promote "school choice." That "choice" doesn't seem to include making public schools better but it does include making all the other choices more attractive.

I'm not sure what you have done to deserve such treatment. Much of it, I believe, comes from the fact the politicians don't like the various associations that lobby for public education. They derisively call them "educrats." This becomes an elephant fight and you tend to get trampled in the process and punished for something you haven't done.

In addition to severely cutting state funding for public education, sometimes our intrepid public servants wander into La-La land. House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Alpharetta) claims you are the most highly compensated teachers in the nation. She also claims that the moon is made of green cheese but that is a story for another day.

I assume Jones was trying to make her legislative colleagues feel better about themselves for taking such good financial care of you and to help her pass the charter school amendment. Maybe you could share your pay stubs with her.

You know my feelings about the charter school amendment. I am still waiting for someone to tell me why we should vote for it this fall. Proponents say the state needs this amendment to authorize state charter schools. What they don't tell you is the State Board of Education has approved 13 charter schools in a year. So, where is the need?

This isn't about charter schools. It is about letting for-profit charter school management companies get their foot in the door whether your local school system likes it or not. The irony shouldn't be lost on you that Gov. Nathan Deal signed the charter school amendment bill in Cherokee County, home of Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), not exactly the best friend of public education in the state.

You should know also that the governor, Mr. Rogers, and Jan Jones all received campaign contributions from Florida-based Charter Schools USA, the group that had their petition to operate a facility in Cherokee County turned down by the local school board.

I doubt Gov. Deal loses sleep over my opinions but if his image polishers are reading this, I consider signing the bill in Cherokee County a cheap shot at the Cherokee school system, one of the best in the state. Plus, the event exhibited regal indifference to our growing suspicions as voters that campaign contributions do indeed influence political decisions.

I have serious skin in this game. Four members of my family are public school teachers. My son and my son-in-law have been in the classroom long enough to roll with the punches. Nothing much surprises them anymore. But, now I have two grandchildren who have completed their first year of teaching. Nick Wansley is a chemistry teacher and coach at South Forsyth Hill School and his wife, Mandy, teaches at Riverwatch Middle School, also in Forsyth County.

They are the future of public education in Georgia and I am extremely proud of the decision they made to be teachers. Obviously, they both could make more money and have fewer headaches in another profession, but they believe this to be a calling -- and it is. The school teacher was one of our community's most respected professionals when I was growing up. That was before government at all levels got involved and made a mess of things.

Now our legislative leaders cozy up to Washington think tanks and for-profit charter school management groups and preach "school choice." It would be nice if they would deign to help you fix the problems in public education, not run away from them. I have no confidence the current crop in power will do that but they need to know -- and you need to know -- that I appreciate all you do and I'm not going away. I pray you don't, either. We've just begun to fight.

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

Comments

NewsReader 2 years, 3 months ago

Well Dick, I don’t know where to begin. I think most of us support our school teachers, so let’s just put that part of it to rest. I have said time and again that teachers need to be paid like professionals if they are expected to act and be professionals. As far as I’m concerned, they are “licensed” professionals in much the same way physicians, lawyers, accounts, and the like are, yet lack the relevant pay scale to support it. My argument is simple – school choice and the money follows the child. This charter school amendment isn’t about creating charter schools, but allowing the money to follow the child. I embrace and support that every step of the way. We are not against public education. We are against holding our child’s funding hostage to the whims of local school board leaders. I pay my property taxes like everybody else, and I’m interested in only taking the money that would otherwise be allocated for my child’s education in the public arena to be utilized for that purpose no matter where they are educated. It is their money, and no matter how you try to rationalize it otherwise, anything short of that, is stealing it from them. Now, I know I’ll have our resident morons like Jan, et al, come out from under their rock and adamantly object to this. That’s fine. They have an agenda just like you. Yours happens to be a host of relatives working in the public school system. I get that. But when you evaluate what our public education system has done the past 50 years, I wouldn’t exactly call it a resounding success. In fact, I’d call it a dismal failure. We have all witnessed how pumping more money into the problem doesn’t begin to address the problem. All we have done as a nation is add more layers of bureaucracy to the equation. These kids need to learn critical thinking skills. They don’t need to learn how to pass a test, or multiple tests as the case may be...TBC

0

Jan 2 years, 3 months ago

"you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" I have given you the facts about the failed charter school experiment. Since you choose to ignore them and resort to ridiculous rationalizations of my motives and lame insults to defend your position, I do not think it is worthy of my time to continue my attempt to educate you. Please, if you must resort to insults, try to find something more original next time.

0

Jan 2 years, 3 months ago

Well a slight improvement on the insults but still nothing original. Please try again.

0

NewsReader 2 years, 3 months ago

TBC... The US DOE and the State DOE are both totally useless inept organizations siphoning tax money from the general public. If what you are doing isn’t working, then continuing to do it is, by definition, total insanity. And to quote Dr. Phil – “How’s that working out for ya?” And while there are some for-profit charter school companies out there with an eye on getting into the teaching business, if our children are better educated as a result, I don’t care. The government institution of education sure as heck isn’t getting it done. If you want to fix public education, then fix it. But you’re not going to do it at the expense of my childrens’ futures in the finite amount of time I have available to teach them. And some good places to start is what I said about the DOE above, eliminating the ridiculous ivory towers from which our educational leaders rule, paying professionals professional wages, and stop trying to make every child feel good about themselves, for we are producing another generation of entitlement driven, irresponsible, hypocritical youth that think they know everything about everything. There is a significant difference between knowledge and wisdom. And last, I don’t have a problem with those students who don’t want or care to learn. I do have a problem with those students who continuously disrupt the educational process of others because our teacher’s hands are tied to kick their sorry behind out of their classroom. If I had my way, we would have a whole lot of Joe Clarks running the schools.

0

Jan 2 years, 3 months ago

Why do you continue to ignore the data? We do know that most charter schools do not perform at the level of public schools. By your admission, it is insane to continue to fund them. We also have seen that over stressing standardized testing pushes to teaching the tests and is actually hurting education. Before politicians got involved in micromanaging education, the "ivory tower" of educational leaders were doing a better job of adding innovation into education.

0

teacherreader 2 years, 3 months ago

First of all thank you Mr. Yarbrough for your unfailing support of teachers. It seems only relatives of teachers truly understand what our profession does. Yes, it is still a profession. It is however not one that I would recommend to others. I have been in this profession for many years. I currently have 5 college degrees and yet am paid a year what your average professional game player makes per game. Sorry, I digress, most people realize that I am underpaid and overstressed. I agree that there is way too much bureaucracy in our educational system and too many people who don't have the slightest idea about education making decisions. They don't know what it is like to prepare the children for yet another test when they are worried about where their next meal may come from or why their parents are divorcing. They need love and attention from me plus academics. I love my students as if they are my own, but I can't overcome the negativity they hear about me from the news, government, and their parents. I have extremely high expectations from my "babies", but am many times labeled mean for expecting them to reach for the stars. I desperately say to the public, teachers really don't need fixing we need support. I need to be able to praise and yes discipline my students without fear I will be sued or end up on the news. Parents, I don't lay awake at night wondering how I can make your child's life miserable. I lay awake at night wondering what else I can do to get the best out of them that I know they are capable of doing. They need to be held accountable for their actions and WORK hard for everything they get. Life is just that way and much more pleasurable if you know you earned it.

1

ssilover1 2 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for this article, one of many you have written that reveals your understanding of public education. It is easy to tell who has no public ed teachers in family. I also hope Georgia's elected officials, most who come to the movers and shakers in education with their hands out while needing campaign money, seriously consider their support for public education as the word is getting out strong and hard how they have almost all turned their back on educators. We will remember. And you legislators, don't think this comment is aimed at Deal. No; it is aimed at YOU.

0

FordGalaxy 2 years, 3 months ago

Has anyone ever considered that one of our biggest problems with public education is that we try to force every child into the same thing, when it should be an established fact that not all children (and later on teens and young adults) are cut out for academia? Some children just don't get it. Some children will excel far and above what their counterparts achieve.

Personally, I think one of the best things we could do as a country would be a revitalization of vocational training and apprenticeships. It hurts us a bit that the US is no longer a predominantly manufacturing based economy, but rather a financial services economy, but we still need plumbers, electricians, carpenters, constructions workers, etc. I'm not trying to look down on workers in those fields, so please don't take what I'm saying that way. But not many people graduate college these days with the intention on becoming a plumber. However, if someone were to get vocational training and apprentice under a plumber for a whiel before going out on their own, that would prepare them much better for the "real world" than any college education.

0

georgewilson 2 years, 3 months ago

The direction of education in Georgia One has to only look at Chile to see what the Republican right wing in Georgia has in store for public education in Georgia. If public education was virtually abolished under Pinochet in the ’80s, his right wing successors have done nothing to bring it back. This program was with the encouragement of Milton Friedman and the Nixon administration. Just 40 percent of Chilean children receive a free secondary-school education, in underfinanced public schools; the rest attend partly subsidized charter or private schools. To finance their university educations, most students take out bank loans, which saddle them and their families with years of debt. Sound familiar. Entrepreneurs have “speculated and grown wealthy off the dreams and expectations of thousands of young people and Chilean families Instead of families financing between 80 and 100 percent of it.” Why not the state — through taxes on large corporations, a reduction in financing for the military at the national level and a true progressive income tax in Georgia?

0

Sign in to comment