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) says 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 over 150 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’s why you get the big bucks?
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The opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of EmpowerED Georgia.