Saturday, April 2, 2011

March 31st Rally for Education Speech

On Thursday, March 31st, I was proud to address 500-600 educators and education supporters who arrived on the state house lawn.  Because the teachers waited until 4 pm, after their school day was over, they did not get the coverage that the thousands of protestors who thronged there earlier in the day had received (in fact, I have yet to find any coverage).  But, it was a moment of solidarity for all.  I was not only able to visit and hear the stories of teachers from around the state, but also an old high school friend who is now the captain of the Professional Firefighters of Concord, some of my son's teachers, my own colleauges from Holderness, and even my high school teachers! The work put into the organization of this event was impressive, and the time given on a school night was necessary.  I know there were many more educators who wanted to be present and were not able, but they should know that they were represented on this raw, March afternoon by enthusiastic parents, paraprofessionals, legislators, fellow educators, and of course, the honking horns and cheers from passersby.
Below is my speech (approximately...I'm not known to follow my words exactly!) with a link to the video.:

NEA Rally Speech

It has become clear over the past year that there is general public outcry for educational reform.  And if our leaders would stop and put their ears to the ground, they would hear the teachers and unions supporting this reform.  We say yes.  Absolutely.  We are teaching in an outdated system that does not fully support the 21st century student or family.
But reform and destruction are two entirely different beasts.
And have no doubt—what our leaders are bringing us, after hours, behind closed doors, is destruction.
Eliminating collective bargaining can be seen as a guise for educational reform—and that is certainly the tone of the public reaction that supports this motion.  Without collective bargaining, schools can let teachers go without using evaluations.  They can fire teachers or lower their pay because of test scores.  It is the easy way out.  Who needs to study teacher effectiveness or merit pay or tenure?  Who needs data?  This bill simply allows schools to fire teachers at-will without any backed up reasoning.  It will make our jobs insecure as our school boards and communities ride with political winds and swinging pendulums.
I’m standing here today though not just to protest the implicit elimination of collective bargaining.  But to say that I am angry about how our government is approaching education.  Our house of representatives has decided to put into place the cornerstones of destruction for NH education.
Policy makers want successful schools, yet they brought forth bills dismissing mandatory kindergarten and the exclusion of arts in state curriculum.  I thank the Senate for not passing these bills and for being the voice of reason.  I hope they can continue to do so.
Because policy makers want successful schools, yet they have passed a bill lowering the dropout rate from 18 to 16.  But that is not even important anymore, because they have also passed a bill eliminating compulsory education.  Yes, next week our Senate will vote on whether children aged 6-16 can be required to attend school.  And if children don’t, districts will no longer have the jurisdiction to oversee a curriculum.
Policy makers want successful schools , yet the house has passed a bill that tells school boards—volunteers who do not have to have any background or experience in education—that they have the right to tell their teachers what they can teach.  How they should teach it.  And how they should asses their students.
Policy makers want successful schools, yet they are proposing we abolish the department of education. 
Policy makers want successful schools.  So do teachers.  But our government has stopped listening to the professionals.  We are being dismissed, vilified, treated as though we are not experts in our field.  And while we are famous for doing what we are told, taking pendulum swings in stride, closing our doors and spending our days with the students we are invested in because that’s what we love, there is a limit and we have reached ours. 
It’s time to listen to teachers.  It’s time to stop the destruction.

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