Where are the union obstructionists?
by UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh
There is much divisive discourse surrounding public education and our Association in particular. The naysayers call us “union obstructionists” and paint a picture of the Association as a major obstacle to education reform.
Recently we held the NEA Western Regional Leadership Conference here in Salt Lake City. There were around 500 participants, all members of their local, state, and national affiliates. The agenda included an open hearing for members to provide feedback to the newly created Commission on Effective Teachers and the Teaching Profession.
As a member of this Commission, I was anxious to hear from our colleagues. I never imagined that over 150 educators would be present at the hearing. They were passionate and excited about the opportunity to talk about excellence in our profession. Their feedback included things like implementing peer reviews, holding one another to high standards, developing authentic professional development to improve student learning, incorporating more time to collaborate and see “master” teachers in action, use of multiple measures of student achievement, a desire for a fair evaluation system, and commitment to engage in the conversations surrounding education excellence.
Where were the obstructionists? Where were those who would protect bad teachers at all costs? Where were those only concerned about money?
You see, those are the messages being carried by those who wish to destroy public education and our Association. That is NOT who we are. That is NOT what we stand for. We need to stand up for our children. We need to take back our profession by being the credible voices for teachers.
Non-educator policymakers have made our jobs more difficult by eliminating practices we know work, increasing our class sizes, eliminating essential services, and passing legislation that makes our work more difficult. We are being set up for failure. It is like carrying sand uphill using a strainer.
As we continue our work this legislative session, it is imperative we are heard. Don’t tell us how our public schools are failing. We know better. And to our lawmakers I respectfully say, if you believe our public schools are failing, before you point fingers at educators and our professional association, take a serious look at yourselves. You see, we, as educators, have not been allowed to govern our own profession. You have done that for us. Now the important question…how is that working out for our children?
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