Focus On Future To Fix Furloughs
Wednesday - December 02, 2009
In my ongoing discussion of the furlough situation, I’ve heard from people in almost every group: lawmakers, teachers and parents. This is a very touchy subject, and people tend to get mad. Some are getting mad at me.
I think what’s really happening is that people are emotional about this issue, they feel powerless and their gut reaction is to get angry. A teacher is livid because I made “all teachers” look bad. A parent chastises me for blaming the mess on “all parents.”
Well, hello. I’m not blaming all people of any group. I think I made the point loud and clear that what we need here is more dialogue and less finger pointing.
And the thing is, no matter how angry people initially are, when we actually talk (via e-mail) most of these people agree with me on that. A woman with a high school-age son says she and her husband have tried their best over the years to get involved and stay involved with their son’s schools, but have sometimes felt dismissed and ignored by teachers and school administrators. She says, “I’ve been discouraged by the low participation of parents and teachers.” She’d like to grade the DOE once her son graduates. I say go for it. But do it constructively.
Another reader, a teacher, is afraid that if and when the furloughs are dropped and school days restored, planning and professional days will be taken away. “That means more of our own time will be sacrificed. No one thinks of all the progress reports, meetings and planning that go on outside of school hours. Some of us get to school at 6 and still stay until 4. Now, they are talking of giving us only 2 percent of our 6.9 percent back, so we will be working the same amount of hours for less. We’d still be taking about a 5 percent cut.”
She doesn’t want furloughs. She doesn’t want to strike. She does want a fair deal. “I love my job. Would have no other profession. I love working with the children every day. It is very sad that our children suffer the consequences. Maybe now the public will start fighting more for education.”
She’s making the same point a lot of people are making, and I hope she includes herself in that fight because that’s what it’ll take. Maybe she and the parent above can have a conversation.
I would love to hear from one more important stakeholder in all this: students. We have yet to hear your voices. Please, if you have feelings and thoughts about the furloughs, about your teachers, about the role of money and politics in your education, I’d love to help you share them with our readers. After all, you are the people at the center of all this. Your futures are on the line and yet you have the smallest voices, the least power and the weakest influence when it comes to effecting change. State Rep. Roy Takumi recently commented on one of my columns, saying, “I am reminded of Churchill’s quote, ‘If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.’ Let’s think about the future.”
Yes, indeed. The future is what we need to focus on.
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