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Newswire – August 20, 2019

Perspectives on Hot Issues in 2020 Race -
or Those That Should Be

A Special CER Newswire

It seems like forever, but it was just a few weeks ago that the nation witnessed its most recent union-organized walkouts in North Carolina. Prior to that, the unions had pushed teachers in more than 15 states or communities to walk out of their schools in 2019. And more strikes are imminent, as the Chicago Teachers Union is threatening to strike as soon as September if contracts they want with the city don’t come to negotiations quickly. This, after they received record increases last year!

Their purpose? To highlight the lagging teacher pay and incentives and to create public awareness and legislative response for compensation.

But the real purpose was revealed earlier this month in the results of the annual Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools: more than half of all teachers are mulling leaving the profession.

While PDK would argue this is about pay and benefits, the teachers we talk to have a different take -- traditional public school educators feel like political footballs. Their union is fostering discontent and is advocating for political efforts and policies that have nothing to do with teaching! In each of the communities that they pushed to walk out on kids, compensation was already on the list for increases at the local or state level.

And according to Education Week, the average teacher salary is more than $60,000 -- not including benefits, or accounting for the full-year pay scale.

If comp and benefits were the main focus of the NEA, for example, why were the majority of the 368 resolutions they considered not about education but rather issues like immigration and abortion. They even voted against New Business Item #2 - “re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America by putting a renewed emphasis on quality education.”

No wonder why a near majority of teachers are fed up!

The solution to the summer of teachers’ discontent is not to raise fixed pay scales a bump or two -- it’s to completely transform the teaching profession. It’s not that difficult. Here’s what the candidates should be talking about -- and what state legislatures nationwide should be doing:

  • Rather than create and maintain salary levels at the state level and in districts, which are the subject of master contracts in right to work states or bargaining in labor-controlled states, leave the positioning and creation of education employees to the schools! Educators can have and want flexibility -- some want to work longer, take on more responsibilities, sit for reviews and vie for bonuses.

  • Others, especially younger teachers starting families, may like to work from home while they spend time with their newborns or little kids.

  • All that paperwork that teachers have to take home? Imagine giving a classroom educator the ability to “contract” that work to a teacher who wants to work from home longer than the average amount of maternity leave. Curriculum specialists, administrators and advisors make up the majority of education employees. Most do not need to be near a classroom to do their job.

From LA to Chicago, to small town school districts, the lion’s share of funds are spent on facilities upkeep. They are like real estate brokers -- not just in the schools, but in the vast expanse of facilities across the cities and states they have to maintain. The more people are permitted to work from home, the less overhead there is. It’s that simple.

Imagine education looking more like corporate America and utilizing its resources in ways that allowed both to maximize their time and potential.

The reality is that while my generation of working mothers wanted to go to the office, many today want to work as entrepreneurs, from home or wherever their families take them. Fathers have the same aspirations.

And just consider the volume of online learning going on worldwide! Students -- even younger ones -- are no stranger to Facetime and digital conversations. A teacher on leave may want to Zoom in from home while his/her teaching assistant manages the classroom.

Or how about an entirely virtual school, like many successful charters have? Born in charters, blended learning is also increasingly penetrating traditional public schools, allowing both on-the-ground and self-paced personalized work to go on among students.

There is simply no need for the classroom of yesterday to be the classroom of tomorrow. There is a myriad of ways to restructure and redesign learning that maximizes parents, employees, and employers. Most of all, there are ways to reignite the passion of teachers and remove their status as political footballs tossed about by labor unions.

We needn’t have a Warren-inspired, multi-billion child care or early education program to serve the needs of families. The benefit of changing education’s structure would not only support the needs of these families, but expand the pool of people wanting to work in our schools and around our children -- magnifying the capacity and talents of those who work with our kids, day in and day out.

These are the issues the candidates, pundits and yes, media can and should be talking about. What else is on your mind for this campaign season? Write me directly and jeanneallen@edreform.com and share your ideas.

Best for the remaining summer days, short as they are....and get ready. A very long election year is right upon us!


As always, please drop us a line, with any input and suggestions.

Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.