This is Teacher Appreciation Week. It is a time to honor the men and women who strive daily to provide every child in every classroom with an opportunity for a bright future. It is not a time to attack teachers' salaries, benefits, job security, or professionalism. For this one week of the year, let's declare a ceasefire on the current war against America's teachers.
For those of you who challenge my contention that there is a war on teachers, let me give you some facts. The war began on November 2, 2010, when voters elected a group of politicians who made promises to reduce government, reduce taxes, and reform education. When those newly-elected officials discovered that this economy could not handle those promises, they chose to attack teachers and other middle-class public employees rather than to raise the disproportionately low taxes of wealthy supporters.
Ground zero in this war was Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker took office predisposed to fight public employees who had challenged him in his previous office as a county executive. Governor Walker began the war by destroying collective bargaining rights so that he could balance his budget on the backs of teachers and state employees. By destroying their rights, he was able to reduce salaries, benefits, and jobs. He brags about it. When they supported him, voters had no idea that this was his plan. When they realized what he was doing, they fought back. The war there continues with a recall battle set for the 5th of June. I am sure that the teachers of Wisconsin would gladly delay Teacher Appreciation Day to June 5th and ask the voters to show their support for the excellent work teachers have done---despite the most adverse conditions---by giving their state a Governor who respects and honors them.
If we believe that education is an economic driver and that great teachers are the most important factor in a quality education, then we must stop the war on teachers. While Ohio voters stood up to a Governor who attempted to copy his colleague in Wisconsin, other states have not been so fortunate. There is not much recourse in states like Indiana, Florida, and Michigan where the political dialogue has demeaned teachers, leaving them demoralized. Maybe a little public outrage about that dialogue would be the best gift for teachers in those states.
It has been a tough year for all teachers. Many elected and appointed officials across the country have fought to equate quality teaching with a single test score. We might even say that tests have been used as weapons of mass destruction in this war.
Teachers need to know that someone recognizes the work that they do every day for our children. In every poll, teachers say what would mean most to them is a "thank you" from the public.
So let's thank our teachers for their sacrifices of family time, personal income, and more to assure that our children are well served. Thank teachers for paying for our children's college application fees, lunches, eyeglasses, field trips, clothes, and whatever else our children needed to spare them from embarrassment or neglect. Let's thank them for all the time they spent off the clock to become better teachers, to chaperone our children, to coach teams, to sponsor yearbook staffs and glee clubs, and to volunteer for community projects. Other than their parents, teachers are the most important adults in our children's lives. Our appreciation is a small token in exchange for the huge gift teachers provide daily to ensure our democracy.