Among numerous programs slated for elimination under the GOP budget proposal is Goals 2000, a program intended to boost student achievement and raise national school standards.
Gov. J. Fife Symington addressed the concerns of Tucson's public school teachers last week by offering to abolish teacher's unions, create one-year contracts, and eliminate raises for experienced and qualified teachers. His rationale consisted of several flimsy, unfounded excuses, the kind of rhetoric that gets tossed around in the Arizona Legislature every year Ÿ too tight a budget to increase salaries, and too many unqualified, mediocre teachers who are responsible for lagging student achievement.
And the coup de grace? He claims that he is acting for the sake of the children, and that recent teacher sick-outs in Tucson schools indicate their lack of dedication to the children and to their profession. (And this coming from a Republican, the party determined to ban free school lunches, impoverish the children of parents on welfare, and eradicate other social programs aimed at kids). According to Symington, teachers are as easily replaced as a household pet Ÿ and since Tucson's union teachers don't care about teaching children, he will hire teachers who do.
Show me a teacher who doesn't care about teaching children, and I'll show you a rational Republican. Few teachers are attracted to the teaching profession for its lucrative salary and opportunities for advancement.
While Symington continues assaulting teachers with his acerbic statements and twisted views on education, he still expects the same level of dedication and productivity from them. Most employers offer pay incentives, job security, and appreciation for a job well done in exchange for quality work from their employees. Rather than applying this standard to education, Symington assumes that teachers live on an esoteric plane, without need for incentives and trivial amenities (like money to pay the bills).
Aside from parenting, teaching is the one profession which will significantly impact the future. Teachers instill a sense of morality, decency, and ethics in their students, as well as imparting them with the knowledge and skills they need to become responsible, productive adults. Despite their sphere of influence and their ability to affect the future in ways that Gov. Symington never will, teachers are ignored, ridiculed, and criticized when they request a raise to keep up with inflation.
Tucson's teachers are requesting exactly that Ÿ a reasonable salary, job security, and respect, and after several failed negotiations, sick-outs are the only way to get their message across.
And what is that message? That teachers, unlike professional ball players, Hollywood stars, lawyers, and businessmen, receive very little monetary compensation for fulfilling an extremely valuable role Ÿ dedicating their lives to helping, instructing, guiding, and encouraging children, the future adults and heirs of this country, and they deserve more than the reprimands and criticism that Symington hurls their way.
But in addition to personal requests, Tucson's teachers are protesting several of Symington's inane proposals, one of which will remove bilingual aids from the classroom, creating enormous difficulties for non-English speaking students.
Rather than hiring more teachers, Symington will allow increases in class size. Student learning is greatly inhibited by large, impersonal classrooms in which students receive less individual attention and move at a considerably slower pace to accommodate the growing number of students falling behind.
Slashed funding for music, art, and P.E. always looms just around the corner, denying kids learning experiences and opportunities in those subjects.
Is Symington concerned with the future of Arizona's children? Any politician who addresses the problems of teachers and education through a series of immature, unfounded attacks not only lacks concern for children but for his political career as well.
When Tucson's teachers stage another sick-out on Nov. 28, they will be representing the interests of their students and attempting to preserve their personal and professional dignity. Without dedicated teachers, the educational system would collapse and simply be an exercise in mediocrity, producing child-parrots who lack imagination, creativity, and ambition. Symington obviously wants Arizona's students to fail.
Jessie Fillerup is a music education junior. Her column appears Mondays.
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