Proud of Her Public School: A Teacher's Appeal to Secretary DeVos
My union, the United Federation of Teachers, has started a campaign to share the great things that happen in neighborhood schools every day. #PublicSchoolProud is "showcasing the great things that are happening in our public schools every day, honoring our students' accomplishments and illustrating the joys of teaching." I love this movement, but I don't love the reason why this work has become so pressing. We need to highlight the great things about teaching because some of those things are under attack.
My friend and colleague Sharon Davison is a kindergarten teacher in Vermont. We first met through a fellowship with the America Achieves organization and she has published on this blog before. She is #PublicSchoolProud.
She sent me the letter below after the administration released their budget with proposals for draconian cuts in education spending. She questions and informs Secretary DeVos about the budget. Explaining how these spending cuts would impact her students and their community. Inquiring about the values that lay beneath the decisions.
Teachers play so many roles in our communities beyond teaching content to the students in our classes. We mentor, we care for, we hold accountable. Today, we must also advocate. Thank you Sharon for providing us with a great example of how we can do this. -JRTM
Dear Secretary of Education Betsy Devos:
My name is Sharon Davison and I have the privilege of being a public school teacher in the state of Vermont. I am reaching out to you today because I am concerned, confused, and deeply saddened by your budget for the nation in regards to public education.
I would hope as Secretary of Education that you would be informed, supportive of all children that attend public school, and recognize the value of teachers, children, and their families.
Together all these people weave together a caring and intricate fabric that creates continuity, community, and opportunity. I think that your plan is really not about doing what is best for students who attend public schools, but rather a dismantling of a system that has supported teachers, communities, and students for many years.
I am writing because I believe in the public school system and all that it has to offer.
The families that I support trust me to help them get the best they can for their child. Parents trust me to be a resource in supporting the gifts and challenges that they face as parents. It has been my privilege and honor to help my students and families. Together we collaborate and develop deep relationships that provide students and their families with resources that offer support and give hope so that each child can be successful.
Your plan makes it harder for me to do this work. What should I tell families when they approach me about the after-school programs that your budget will take away? Do I tell them that our nation does not believe in these programs because they cost money? Do I tell them that taking care and providing nutrition for children who need our support is not a priority for your administration?
Working families struggle with providing food and after-school care for their children. What do they do now? If your budget is approved, children will go hungry. Children will be left unattended.
You may not see these impacts, but I will be face to face with them every day. Decreases in funding for afterschool care and healthy food will lead to decreases in school achievement. When you take from resources from the public schools that serve 90 percent of the students in this country you also siphon communities' strength. If the administration doesn't believe in our communities we are less likely to believe in ourselves.
Ms. DeVos, the educators of this country want to hear from you. What are your thoughts about what will happen in our schools and communities? Are parents solely responsible for providing all the care that is needed for their children? Are you thinking that families can afford healthcare and can take time to take their child to a doctor or get support if their child is having learning difficulties? Where do parents go? Who helps them? What kind of country ignores the needs of our most vulnerable young people?
You have presented a budget that tells families: "We, the nation, the Department of Education, does not care about you, your educational opportunities or your health." Is this the message you stand behind?
I disagree and will be questioning you every step you take. Every day I wake up to be a hero for my students and their families. Your budget takes away hope from families in my community in order to provide money for private schools that will benefit you and other wealthy people. I will amplify my voice using every means necessary because I care about all students in our nation and I expect you and your department to share my values. Apparently this is not the case.
I stand with teachers, children, and families.
Best, Sharon E. Davison
Public School Teacher
Sharon Davison has been teaching for over three decades. She is presently a kindergarten teacher at the Allen Brook School in Vermont. She is also an online facilitator for the NEA Professional Practice Communities and was honored as a 2017 PBS Digital Innovator. She is passionate about learning and believes in creativity, innovation and collaboration. Sharon uses a variety of digital tools and platforms to connect, engage, and enhance learning. She believes in wellness of mind and body and values family engagement.