School Choice & Charters Opinion

One Million Teachers Just Choked

By John Wilson — May 31, 2012 3 min read
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I have had the pleasure of working with some great teachers who happen to be registered Republicans, and they’ve been pretty loyal to their Party’s nominees in the past. They have let me know how disappointed they have been with the current administration’s preoccupation with using student test data for everything from employee evaluations to salary increases. This has been their “talk to the hand” response when I have tried to persuade them with other arguments that favor this administration. It’s been a tough sell up till now. But low and behold, their party’s candidate has come forth with an education agenda that has made my Republican friends choke on their words.

Mitt Romney and his advisers---none of whom are practicing teachers---recently rolled out their education platform. His accountability proposal was based on the same tired ideas that have undermined the respect and authority of teachers for the last twelve years. There was no research foundation for Gov. Romney’s education platform and no attempt to involve the very people who might have to suffer anew these recycled failed reforms. Once again, we have the case of a politician who believes that business practices can be successfully imposed upon schools and the practice of teaching. First, my Republican teacher colleagues just rolled their eyes at their Party’s candidate. But then things got worse.

Mitt Romney actually said, “Class size does not matter.” He continues to contend that it is a union ploy to get more teachers hired. Republican teachers know that class size makes a huge difference when you have a diverse classroom of students with a wide range of achievement and personal issues in a school that attempts to honor the individuality and to meet each child’s instructional needs. The best research proves that the early grades and high poverty classrooms benefit from small classes. If smaller class sizes really did not matter, private schools and charter schools would not tout them at the top of their marketing materials.

Mitt Romney wants to undermine the public school system in America with vouchers for private schools and a proliferation of charter schools. We cannot afford a President who does not use his clout to promote a strong public education system. We know that a leader who spends his time promoting a good education for 10% while ignoring the needs of 90%, risks weakening the democracy for 100% of our citizens. Promoting practices that increase inequities and inequalities works to the detriment of this great country.

So to Governor Romney, I send this message: there are one million registered Republicans who teach in America’s public schools, and they are listening. You could have talked about restoring respect for the teaching profession. You could have talked about having teacher advisers to keep you grounded in what works and what does not. You could have talked about assuring adequate funding to make sure that every public school is a great school. You could have said that you will be a President who cares about the 90% of America’s children who attend public schools. Instead, you chose to stand against public schools and the overwhelming number of teachers who work hard everyday to assure that every child learns and thrives.

Now those Republican teachers will look more favorably at the alternative. They will learn that President Obama has invested more funding in public schools than any other President. President Obama has championed labor-management collaboration. President Obama has been aggressive in assuring equity and civil rights for every student. He has promoted health and wellness programs for our students. President Obama has touted programs that respect the teaching profession and great teaching. He has invested in education technology that promotes 21st century learning. President Obama understands the value of a strong public school system for a strong America. My Republican friends and all their colleagues in any or no political party will examine records and read education platforms and learn that there is a significant difference in our choices for President.

One million Republican teachers can send a message that public schools matter to them and that their voices and votes will matter in November in charting the course for America’s public schools and the teaching profession.

The opinions expressed in John Wilson Unleashed are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.