To an extent, policy dictates the way we all do our jobs, but no profession boasts more interference from policy makers than teachers do.
If the teacher’s union values the power of education and the teachers who wield it, they would drop their official endorsement of Hillary Clinton and immediately endorse Bernie Sanders for president.
Faced with budget cuts and perpetual attacks on public education, the teachers union needs a democrat in the white house. American teachers need their classrooms back; they need to be the key voice when, as a nation, we are deciding what goes on in their class. That is why the union needs to endorse a candidate that will strive to give that voice back to educators. The problem is, that candidate is not Hillary Clinton.
Our nation’s teachers are not getting the support they need to make our education system great, and make no mistake, they are the ones to do it. It’s easy to cite teacher’spay and benefits as an example of this lack of support, this is because teachers do need to be paid more and schools do need better funding, regardless of zip code. But no teacher got into education to make a lot of money, they became teachers becausethey believe in the power of education to change lives. This isn’t to say they shouldn’t be paid more, but the more important issue is that if we are relying on them to shape lives we need to offer them more support than just bigger paychecks.
Yet the language of money is all policy makers seem to know. To them, results need to be measured and money given out accordingly. This was the idea behind No Child Left Behind. The bill has pushed schools to compete for federal funding and has used test scores to determine which schools ‘win’. Suffice it to say, many children have been left behind, particularly those belonging to low income schools who can’t compete academically with affluent ones. What’s more, it has also forced local governments, trying to keep their budgets from having to make up for lost federal dollars, to structure policy that drives their education system towards test taking. These policy makers are putting the pressure on school administrations and subsequently teachers, to educate students according to standardized tests.
The results of No Child Left Behind have been disastrous. Standardized testing is now being used to determine how well teachers are educating students when in reality, it just measures how well their students take tests, which is a specific skill, not an indication of education. Teachers are vilified by the communities they teach in if their students are falling behind on tests because the schools very funding rests on the results, the worse the school does the less resources are available for their kids. Parents are taking their students out of schools they feel might fail because it isn’t testing well. This doesn’t just widen the inequality gap, it tears it wide open. Meanwhile teachers who not only want to produce well rounded students but also are specifically trained to do so, can’t evoke the techniques they believe in and are experts in because those techniques might not make for better test scores. Teachers are burning themselves out teaching students who may just not be engaged with a standardized test (who is?) and it’s obvious they are losing the support they need to truly innovate our education system. Something needs to change.
Our nation’s educators need a president who believe’s in supporting teachers. Not just someone who will reform No Child Left Behind, but stand in firm opposition to it. Bernie Sanders is the only democratic candidate for president (According to the NEA and AFT) who drastically stands against No Child Left Behind and would like to see it replaced with something that provides teachers with more flexibility. He rightly believes that tying school funding to standardized test scores is no way to run a nation’s educational system, particularly if those tests aren’t even created by actual educators.
Hillary Clinton, whom the teacher’s union supports, helped author No Child Left Behind, belonged to the committee that championed it, and helped it pass. While she dishes some light criticism on her website, saying it didn’t live up to its promise, she does not state what reforms she would like to see made to it. She does not concede that testing isn’t the way to fund schools and she says nothing about giving the decision making power back to those within the education sector by repealing it. Hillary, like Bernie, might support raising teacher pay and investing more in education, yet as seen in her college affordability plan and in her support of NCLB it is obvious she has no qualms about making schools compete for funding based on a standard passed down from policy makers, those furthest from the front lines. The teachers union needs to recognize that this is not their candidate.
Politicians don’t tell taxi drivers what routes they have to drive, they don’t tell doctors what medication to prescribe, and they don’t tell sales managers what good numbers are. They leave those decisions up to professionals within those fields. Teachers need to vote for a president that understands where these decisions belong, seeing where each candidate stands on No Child Left Behind is a major indicator of how they will foster support for our nation’s community of educators. Bernie Sanders believes in the traditionally democratic view that education needs more and better resources and investments. He is also acutely aware that teachers don’t control the education of their students when they are trying to compete for dollars via a series of arbitrary tests. He never believed this and is not going to be obligated to support the idea because he was one of its original champions. This is something that Hillary will have to reconcile with and something that teachers will have to reconcile with Hillary if they choose to vote for her come the primary.
The teacher’s union needs to endorse a democratic president who is dedicated to real policy reform that will have a real effect in building the support all Americans should give to our nation’s teachers. Not just more money, but an avenue to pursue their passion in education through real techniques designed to actually educate students.The Teacher’s Union should endorse Bernie Sanders, it’s time we stop leaving children behind.
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