It is a simple question: Is your legislator representing your interests or are they representing the interests of someone or something else? The question entered my mind at the District 9 OSSBA meeting when one of our legislators tried to defend the AF grading system. It didn't bother me so much that he was in favor of accountability, as I'm in favor of accountability. It bothered me tremendously in the way he defended it. It was as if a representative from ALEC/FEE or Senator Jolley's office had supplied him with talking points! He was adamant and passionate about the issue. I was shocked and dismayed, but then I realized I shouldn't be shocked or dismayed. It occurred to me he wasn't afraid or even slightly concerned to tow the party line in a room full of educators.
For some proper background, I feel I need to tell you how the defense of AF goes. First off, it started with this: "It is okay that the grades keep changing.... at least they are getting them right". Ever notice how people who blindly believe something to be necessary just gloss over the salient details? It never enters their minds that the 8th or 9th time something is "fixed" that the system is flawed. They just say that they finally got it right. Are you serious? Finally got it right?! How the hell do you know it is right! For all I know they ran out of time, stopped trying to figure it out, or just gave up, but believers just assume the final version is correct. What if the grades change tomorrow? Will that grade be correct? Why don't the believers ask the obvious question; Why did it change? Then they move on to something like this: "Our schools are doing an excellent job.... this is not about us it is about (fill in the blank) schools". So we move from the argument that AF is necessary for our parents & community members to make decisions about schools, to it is necessary for someone else somewhere else to make decisions about schools! Seriously folks, this is the deflection argument; its the "we don't need it but they do" logic. My mind immediately goes to local control issues! Ever notice how many politicians say they are for local control, but continue to vote for things that take away local control and make it state control?
This dog and pony show can go on and on and on and on and on. It really doesn't matter (although it is quite entertaining) what they say, it only matters in what they do. Don't ask them how they feel about testing children into oblivion, A-F accountability systems, or educational funding. Asking a politician a question is almost like asking to be lied to (no not all politicians will lie to you, some will just talk down to you or just dance around your question). Have you checked the voting record of your senator or representative lately? How have they voted on education legislation? Have they given a floor speech advocating for teacher pay raises? Have they authored any bills that would benefit you as an educator? Have they voted against things that you believe to be harmful to education? Check to see how they have voted on CCSS, TLE, A-F, testing, educational funding or any number of educational bills. Do their actions and their words align? Or do they tell you want you want to hear and proclaim to be "a friend of education"? Legislators love to tell you that they are a friend to education, then tell you there is nothing they can do. It is the political sweet spot. They tell you they are supporting education, and they get to vote with the leadership and the reformers.
Until we hold our elected officials accountable (they are holding you accountable to difficult tasks) the current trend in education will not change. Until you get involved, politicians will continue to marginalize educators. By getting involved, I mean more than just calling or emailing your legislator. I'm talking about voting and more. Yes, I believe we have to do more! I think we should recruit educators to run for office! I think we should help education friendly people get elected. We have to start telling people what we think, we have to start knocking on doors, wearing campaign buttons, putting up lawn signs, and donating to candidates to get them elected. Just by doing this we will put people in office who WORK in schools and not people who just WENT to school. I sent my representatives a letter asking them to prove they are a friend of education instead of telling me how pro education they are. You can read my letter here. I'm tired of the rhetoric, I want action. My action starts today.