To my friends in the Legislature (and, yes, you are my friends. Without you, I wouldn't have a job.) I will make this brief because I know you are hard at work pushing the Second Amendment rights of hormone-laden college kids (Cue the national anthem) even though you are trampling on my constitutional right to bring my Red Ryder pump-action BB gun with camouflage stock (The Squirrel Squelcher) into the Gold Dome. Not to mention your tireless efforts to allow me to refuse any left-handed transvestite who crossed our borders illegally and wants to marry a Shetland pony from reading this column. (See why you are my friends?)
I thought if you had a minute between fending off lizard-loafered lobbyists who want to buy your dinner and accepting campaign contributions that in no way will influence your vote (wink! wink!), I might catch you up on what is on the minds of teachers these days.
I have been assured by one of your colleagues for whom I have the greatest respect that most of you really do care about teachers. That is encouraging to hear. If so, what I am about to tell you should disturb you and spur you to try and address their concerns instead of listening to out-of-state special interest groups that don't care one whit about teachers.
A group in Cobb County called Educators First, one of the panoply of groups with an oar in education waters, recently published a survey of more than 2,300 Georgia educators. Guess what? Nine of out 10 said they want you to put some kind of parent-accountability law put into effect. Wait. Are they saying to place some of the responsibility for educating children where it belongs — with the parents? Well, duh!
Tana Page, the group's executive director, says since teachers are being heavily evaluated on student performance, they're becoming more vocal about, "Let's evaluate all the stakeholders. Parents need to have a buy-in to this, too."
Page cites the fact that charter schools — the darling of many of you — have such contracts where "parents know their responsibilities, students know their responsibilities, and the school knows theirs." She said, "The student should come to school ready to learn, and the parents should have a current address and contact information on file instead of telling the school that they do not wish to be contacted." That sounds reasonable, don't you think?
Here is where you ought to be concerned: Ninety-nine percent of the teachers responding to the Education First survey say the teaching profession is under attack. Good grief! I wonder where they get that idea? It couldn't be from the state senator who bemoans the fact that rich people "get no benefit" from the public education model or the state representative who opines that teachers leaving the profession is merely a "natural post-recession workforce adjustment." May this pair spend eternity in an inner city schoolroom.
Seventy-two percent of the respondents said they would not recommend teaching as a profession. Sixty percent say they would leave teaching today if they could. The Educators First survey mirrors closely the attitudes of the more than 53,000 teachers who responded to a Georgia Department of Education survey last November when 67 percent of the respondents said they were either "unlikely" or "very unlikely" to encourage high-school graduates to pursue teaching as a profession.
In an interview with the Marietta Daily Journal, Page said this was the first time she could recall a waiting list of educators ready to abandon their contracts due to less than desirable school climates, a lack of discipline in the classroom, the fear of being sued and your talk about changes to their teacher retirement system. And you think we can entice young people to enter the profession under those conditions?
I trust you do support our teachers at times other than at re-election time. If so, get cracking on some parent-accountability legislation with the same fervor that some of your Kool-Aid drinking ideologues support running away from public schools.
What Georgia's public school teachers are telling you loudly and clearly is that they are tired of being blamed for what is wrong with public education. I am, too. Teachers change lives for the better and they deserve better than they are getting. Show them you are listening to them. Make parents accountable for their child's education, too. What's wrong with that? Maybe you can tell your teachers back home this fall when you solicit their vote.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.