A Teacher’s Take On Furlough Days

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - November 25, 2009
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I love feedback. And this week I have a letter from Abe, who wanted to make a point about teachers’ involvement in the current furlough fiasco.

In my column last week, I mentioned that some parents I talked with partially blamed teachers for the mess, because they, after all, ratified the contract. Here’s Abe’s explanation of why so many decided to vote for it:

“I am a teacher and when the union rep came to talk to us, she told us we could accept the offer, or we could go on strike. If we had gone on strike, we probably would have missed more than 17 days. We also faced the possibility that schools would just shut down because (Governor) Lingle had only released enough money to run the schools until December.

No teacher was presented with, “What do you want to do about it?” They told us this is the best offer we can get, if not we will go on strike, or the schools will just shut down, because the money has not been released to run them. The reason so many teachers ratified the contract is not because they were happy to do it, it’s because they felt it was the lesser of all evils. I truly felt that things would be worse for the students if we had not agreed to the contract. I might be wrong and we may have been able to turn things around to make things better for the students, but most teachers, more than 80 percent, didn’t want to take that risk that we might make things worse for the students.”

Abe, I am not questioning the dedication of teachers. I would not do that. I have teachers in my family and I know where their priorities lie. Always, their main concern is the students.

We do have to question ourselves as a community when we are surprised that things have gotten out of hand. Why the fix-it frenzy now? The answer is clear: Because there wasn’t one before it all went down.

The priorities of people in this state haven’t been focused on education. Just ask anyone trying (and failing) to get parents to attend PTA meetings. Just ask teachers who don’t hear from parents until their child is either failing or getting in trouble.

For that matter, ask lawmakers why it took so long to wake up and appropriate real money for school repair and maintenance. When I was reporting, it was a major issue. I’ve been out of it for a few years, but am I to assume that all our public school children now learn in comfortable classrooms and have available all the technology, equipment and books they need? Have things really changed that much? I hope so. But somehow I doubt it.

I’m glad the governor now appears to have come up with a suggestion to make things right. But why allow it to deteriorate in the first place?

Abe actually thinks all the focus on the contract may be good for public education in the long run. Here’s how he concluded his letter: “Thank you for your work. The more concern there is on this, the sooner the problem will get fixed and our students can get back to learning.”

Actually Abe, thank you. We need this dialogue. We need to get everybody talking. And it appears the old adage is true:You don’t miss a good thing till it’s gone. We’ve certainly learned that’s true - especially when we’re talking about taking school days away from our kids.

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