If you haven’t heard what’s going on in one of our nation’s largest school districts, you might want to start paying attention. In Jefferson County, Colorado, a storm is brewing, and it’s a microcosm of the hurricane swallowing America. It’s divisive at its core, and it’s plotting neighbor against neighbor, teachers against parents, and – surprise, surprise – conservatives vs. liberals.
Disclaimer: I am a traditionalist, conservative through and through. I am also a teacher. I am around people of all ideologues every day, and I am privy to information that some people don’t have since I have a front seat to this three-ringed circus. I am a walking contradiction to some, voting almost strictly Republican or Libertarian, but also a member of a teacher’s union.
I have heard both sides, and I am troubled.
You see, last year, Jefferson County voted on a new school board majority. This was hardly headline news, but it ended up being transformative for the state’s largest (the nation’s 32nd largest) school district.
But is the transformation good or bad?
Well, in the field of education reform, it’s troubling, to say the least.
The board majority ran on the basis that they were conservative. Many far-left leaning articles love to remind their readers of this. But I am here to argue that they are not conservative. They are not liberal.
They are politicians.
They are trying to lead the way in reforming education, and I truly believe they think they are doing what is right for kids. The problem is that none of the board majority has spent time as an educator, and it is pretty obvious that they are not ones to trust educators’ opinions.
Is this warranted? I could see where they might think so. I have seen bad teachers remain in highly-paid positions because of a flawed payment system. I have read about unions flexing their political and monetary muscles to ensure that ineffective (sometimes even abusive) teachers remain employed. I have heard about skewed benefits and early retirements. I have seen documentaries showcasing lazy teachers who read newspapers during class and let their students do whatever they want.
But unlike the board majority, I recognize that what I listed above – although it’s horrible – seldom happens. It is sensationalized, much like most of what we read or watch in the media.
I know this because I have been in education for almost a decade. I have been in classrooms in three different states, across all socioeconomic statuses and geo-political boundaries.
I know that teachers are good people. They didn’t enter the field for money or notoriety. They didn’t become teachers because of some alpha-ego complex and weren’t thinking of their early retirement at the ripe age of 22. They had no plans to infiltrate the education system and promote a nationalist agenda like the Nazis.
They became teachers because they wanted to help the kids they love learn.
There’s no other explanation for them doing what they do.
Day in and day out, they adhere to the needs of 25-30 students, and they make sure they are meeting the needs and expectations of their students’ parents as well.
They study curriculum and plan activities to ensure all children learn the way they are biologically wired to learn.
They make sure your children are safe from all this ill-intended world has to inflict upon them, with no regard for their own safety.
They do this for 187 days/year, and contrary to the public’s understanding, they only get paid for those 187 days. It’s split up into monthly payments to ensure they can provide for their own families during the summer months and winter break.
Their benefits have been dwindling at the same rate as those outside of the field of education, and their retirement age is now that of most in the private sector, as long as they’ve contributed to a retirement plan. Each month, they pay 8-10% of their meager income, just like the rest of the population, to make sure that they will have something to live off of after their careers are over.
And they are paid, on average, $1-$2 per child per contact hour (five hours/day) they have with that child.
Less than what a teenage sitter with no expertise charges.
Conservatives, don’t assume that teachers have it easy because they get breaks and because they can retire.
Liberals, don’t assume that teachers have it harder than others in the field of monetary compensation. The whole business world was been hit by the recession.
Conservatives, please know that I sat at a union meeting where teachers voted to take a pay cut to ensure our students get the education and individual attention they need.
Liberals, please work for the needs of our effective teachers that did this, not the ineffective or partially effective teachers who aren’t good at their jobs.
Politics in general, stay the heck out of my classroom.
Conservatives, it is true that democrats make up the majority of our teachers. But you are alienating them, including the conservative ones, with your attitude of mistrust and arrogance.
Liberals, you have taken advantage of your power in the classroom in the past and have protected teachers who have passed their views on to their students.
Politics, stay the heck out of my classroom.
Now there is a movement by the board to review the Social Studies AP curriculum. I’m not against the right of the general public, or even the board itself, to review any curriculum. In fact, I applaud involved parents and community members. But based on Ms. William’s comments about the curriculum and by researching her background, I don’t think she’s an expert in curriculum development, and I fear that she’s not valuing the opinion of those who are.
I’d like to believe her intentions are pure. I really would. But the board majority has shown anything but pure intentions since the beginning of its reign.
No, I don’t believe that the board majority is looking to spend thousands of dollars because the Social Studies curriculum is glaringly one-sided. In fact, I believe their actions are a retaliation of the common core philosophy that conservatives hate. Some reasons common core is hated are valid, but some are a result of blatant fear-mongering.
Board majority, stop being political. I know you were voted in because Colorado had voted far-left for much too long for conservatives. I hated the fact that marijuana was legalized and that we’ve been in the blue instead of the red for as long as I’ve lived here.
But, board majority, take your ideology and put your concerns where it belongs: in politics.
I know education is a concern for all, and it should be. But you’re using your power in education to make a conservative statement while having only a little – if any – educational expertise.
And you’re not trusting those that do.
Your compensation plan is a slap in the face, even for high-performing teachers.
Your curriculum changes are expensive and unnecessary. And speaking of expensive and unnecessary, you hired a superintendent who has never had experience in the position at a starting salary tens of thousands of dollars over our old one (who had many more years experience and data to confirm she was effective). I find that reckless. The $40,000 you spent to find him in a “nationwide search” (and he was just next door in Douglas County!) is even more so.
How in the world are you being fiscally conservative like the conservatives who voted you in???
Don’t get me wrong. I hope and pray that Superintendent McMinimee is effective and helps increase our scores. He has done nothing so far to make me question that he’s good at his job. He has walked into a horribly complicated, unhappy situation and has handled it with dignity. He seems like a nice man and has been nothing but polite to me. I hope he helps us succeed. I really do.
But conservatives typically believe that educators must be paid based on performance. If this is true, then doesn’t he need to prove his effectiveness before being given a huge increase in salary, one that exceeds the previous Superintendent’s salary after she was there for years?
Isn’t it hypocrisy at its finest to be okay with it in one instance, but not okay with it in another?
Last year, Douglas County’s scores fell, pretty uniformly and across the board. Jeffco’s TCAP scores were consistently higher than the average state scores during Stevenson’s time as Superintendent, and last year was the same.
But she never got the salary he’s getting in his first year, which is unproven thus far.
Shame on you for saying you’re conservative and have the public’s interests at heart. Shame on you.
I know there’s a backlash against the liberal leaning in this state, but those actions do not belong in the field of education.
Give me the statistics that say AP students don’t know the topics that Julie Williams outlined.
Show me how teachers sway their students to convert their thinking into a reflection of their own.
If there are teachers and if there is curriculum that is left-leaning, looking to convert students, then it needs to be dealt with.
But I am a conservative minority in Jeffco Schools, and I don’t see it.
I can only think of one instance where a teacher told students of her political affiliation, and I’ve lived in Colorado for five elections.
As a teacher, my students always tried to guess what I felt about a certain situation or candidate, and I presented both sides without trying to sway them one way or another.
And all teachers but the one I mentioned above adhered to that same philosophy.
Politics. Teachers know that it needs to stay out of our classrooms, that students don’t need to be subjected to the ugliness of it until they are old enough to be able to think critically for themselves, to look at the facts and draw their own conclusions.
But the left and right keep sneaking politics in, whether it’s through NCLB and Reading First, or Common Core and the new curriculum.
They do this because they are politicians.
But school boards were never intended to be political, and there is a reason for it.
Because politics need to stay the heck out of our classrooms.
Let the facts be taught, and let the values and opinions centered around those facts be discussed at the dinner table with families. Let the students think critically for themselves and be introduced to different ideas without being forced to adhere to a single one.
Let the kids be kids, for crying out loud.
And politics, stay where you are meant to stay.
Out of my classroom.
Source: Amanda Deich