By Dr. Peg Mathis
To Whom It May Concern:
We have responded to the pandemic. We have provided tens of thousands of breakfasts and lunches to students.
We reached out and tried to help families acquire a device so their student(s) could do school work.
We made thousands of copies of schoolwork and stuffed mailers as internet connectivity in our county is spotty.
We have contacted students and parents with phone calls, emails, and text messages just to “check in.” We have listened.
We provided school work to our students and emotional support to our families.
We cried with students and mourned the loss of the last significant portion of our school year.
We worried, prayed, and worried some more.
We’ve sat back and watched while people argued about the value of social distancing and mask wearing when all we wanted was to see and teach our students.
We’ve watched the disturbing things happening in our cities and wonder how this is affecting the outlook and attitude of our kids.
We worry about our own mental and emotional health as well as that of our spouses and families.
We have watched teenagers and youth go stir crazy because their sports, music and drama performances, and art shows were taken away.
We have logged onto stores online and bought things with our own money and had it sent to students and families in need.
We have fielded numerous questions about “what is going to happen next year,” because people want some reassurance that we’ll be there for them.
We have heard the anguish of the members of the Class of 2020 who did not have the opportunity to experience the traditional end of their formal K-12 education.
We continue to observe online learning companies doing a full-court press to recruit our kids to enroll in programs that statistically are proven to be ineffective.
We watch as ideologues work to try to shift funding away from public schools to private “school corporations.”
We have done all of this with a smile on our face and a positive attitude because that is what the public has come to expect of educators. We have done all of this with an incredible amount of uncertainty with our funding and future. Educators just want proper funding for our kids.
In 2017, I wrote a blog post about how we could take the millions of dollars the State of Michigan spends on testing and reallocate that to schools so teachers can do what they know how to do best. While this is not the only answer, we have to get real and have serious conversations about how public schools have become political footballs.
Stop with the excessive testing. Fund schools properly. Stop professing that we can just cut education services to the bone and that teachers should just “put up with it.” With our teacher numbers dwindling at an astounding pace, we can no longer fake a notion that teachers are not critical to the future of this nation.
Let’s stop pretending that online learning is a proper substitute for school, that teachers are supposed to just tolerate contempt from policy-makers, and that corporations are not getting rich off the testing mania and privatization of schooling.
I know what some are thinking: we are in pandemic, the economy is in the tank, and there is no money. But yet… school leaders have to figure out a budget before June 30 when we have no idea what the funding will be from the state. School leaders have to work to make this happen. It is time that our policy-makers on the left and right at the state and federal level do the same. To quote Nelson Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
With Pride and Respect,
Dr. Peg Mathis
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