Aa a retired teacher, with two adult children who attended District 51 and received a good-enough education to graduate from respected universities, I am still an educator and care very much about our schools.
After reading the recent front-page article bashing teachers and the Mesa Valley Education Association by school board member Jeff Leany, and then seeing the political ad from one of the “reform” candidates referring to “Union Control” and its responsibility for“30 years of educational failure“, I am deeply concerned. It seems obvious to me that some radical wannabe politicians, in the guise of reform, are attempting to control our children’s education, with the guidance and support of the radical right.
First, some facts: MVEA is not a union. Teachers may choose to join the association, or not. As a college student working summers in a steel mill, I had no choice but to join the union. A union implies uniformity (“the state of being one, a complex whole, a systematic totality“).
While MVEA does represent all teachers in master contract and salary negotiations, (someone has to), there is no uniformity among our teachers. Many teachers, for whatever reasons, do not join MVEA or pay MVEA dues, but still benefit from the efforts of MVEA members negotiating on their behalf. Contrary to Leany’s narrow views, MVEA does a lot more for District 51 than just negotiate contracts and support teachers.
Second, I have some questions for Leany:
Why does he think that paying higher salaries for hard to fill positions will lead to better student achievement? Just because someone is certified to teach physics, does that necessarily mean he or she is a competent teacher and deserves a higher salary? And, are we talking $2,000 more or $20,000 more?
Has he looked at the salaries of the “high demand” teachers on the Front Range? Does he think they would come running to a school district that has historically low wages, and has a school board that wants to micro-manage the curriculum?
What about the proven master teachers in “high supply” fields such as elementary classroom, music and language arts, many of whom have earned National Board Certification? Do we put them on a lower pay scale to pay for the “high demand” areas? The money has to come from somewhere, and since Leany and the three Republican candidates do not support a modest raise in state income tax earmarked to improve education, will they cut programs such as art, music and other subjects that are not on the almighty test?
Lastly, is Leany aware that tenure and the master contract, in their traditional roles, simply grant teachers due process if certain workplace situations arise? Many of these situations involve conflicts with principals. The same principals that are given three years to evaluate new teachers and release any incompetent ones without any due process or reason given. Some principals make the tough decisions, and some do not. This is not an MVEA issue; it is an administrative one.
School board members should generate policy and hire central administrators, letting professional educators deliver instruction, choose materials and develop curriculum.
The agendas of Leany and his followers go much farther than the scope of an effective school board. Blaming teachers for our schools’ problems, without looking at the bigger picture, and attempting to bully MVEA will only create havoc in our schools and drive good teachers away. Our children’s education is too important to have a political agenda interfere with it.