Today is April 15, typically the day income taxes are due in the United States. Not this year, though, since it’s Sunday, and tomorrow is some sort of holiday in our nation’s capitol. That makes Tuesday this year’s deadline. My taxes, however, are done. It’s a relief to have that particular task out of the way. In fact, I was owed a refund and already received it. I’m thankful for that (but wondering if I need to change my I-9 at work…).
Here’s what I’m thinking about. Taxes. Why do we pay them and what do we expect as a result? We pay them because we’re contributing members of a civilized society. As such, we contribute our time, our talents, and our resources for the greater good. Not all of our time. Not all of our talents. Not all of our resources. But some.
Does everyone contribute? No. Not everyone is able. We don’t expect children to produce an income and pay taxes, for example. We, as a society, have a responsibility to look out for one another. That doesn’t mean that I work hard and my neighbor does nothing but sit back and enjoy life on my dime. It means that we all help pay for roads and schools and maintaining community services and supports. Just because I don’t use a particular park doesn’t mean that my tax dollars shouldn’t help maintain it.
Do I think the income tax structure in this nation is fair? No. Absolutely not. However, I don’t complain about paying my taxes, because I believe it’s my responsibility. I also believe that citizens have a responsibility to each other and we should speak up and speak out about how our tax money is used.
In my state, educators are finally standing together and speaking up about the way funds have been allocated (or NOT) for education over the past ten years. I want my taxes to support public education because I believe that our nation, and my state in particular, can do better when it comes to providing our children with the skills and tools they need to become productive citizens. Far too many of our kids come to school with deficits that we’re ill-equipped to help them overcome due to shortages of staff and resources.
The role of the schools has expanded greatly in the time I’ve been an educator. Elementary school (where I spend my days) is nothing like it was even ten years ago. The demands placed on kids and teachers are far greater than they ever have been, and there’s an expectation that we can, and must, do more with less.
Classes are larger, instructional assistants, where we have them at all, are stretched thin, and it seems that more and more kids with behavioral and emotional issues are being educated in general education classrooms. Add in pressure for kids to do well on “the test,” and developmentally you have many kids who are being pushed in ways they aren’t quite ready for.
And what about ” the test?” The one kids sometimes get stomach aches about. The one they worry will keep them for advancing to the next grade. The one that takes hours to administer, under conditions that are more suited for university students than nine year olds. Why do we have that one, and several others that are similar? Yes, we need to monitor growth and achievement, and yes, we want to be on the lookout for signs of trouble, but really, I could tell you which of my students have those skills and which do not.
The test is for accountability, not for kids, but for teachers. The thinking is, if you work hard and do your job as a teacher then all of your students should be successful on the test. Sounds great, right? But of course it just doesn’t work that way. For every kid that’s a nervous wreck about getting everything right, there are several kids who really don’t particularly care.
They’re little kids, and the test in on a computer in front of them. They can click a few buttons, write down a couple of things on their scratch paper, and call it done. As far as many kids are concerned, it’s a waste of time. Maybe it’s too hard for them. Maybe it’s too long. Maybe it’s too boring. Maybe they just don’t feel like doing it, after all, there’s really nothing tangible for them to gain. They don’t get extra lives or digital coins in their game account or anything like that. Why even bother? Because the teacher tried to hype it up? Please.
I propose that we use some of the money that’s used for the insane amount of testing we do, and put in back into the classrooms. I propose that our governor find a way to reinstate funding for education in our state back to its 2008 level, and I propose that he actually meet with teacher leaders and hear them out. I think he has no idea about what really happens in classrooms, and I think many taxpayers are mislead too. Our state has a severe teacher shortage, primarily due to low wages. Many teachers (myself included) work multiple jobs, and others leave the profession or move out of state to earn a decent living.
The idea of “if you don’t like it, leave” doesn’t work here. Classrooms are already overcrowded, and we already have about 2,000 vacancies. Additionally, we have individuals “filling in” who aren’t professional educators. Don’t our kids deserve trained professional educators, not subs who are doing their best, but don’t have the knowledge or training of a professional educator? If all of us who are passionate about teaching leave, who will fill in? There are not enough new teachers to fill the vacancies.
So in short, no, teachers don’t work from 8 to 3:30. No, teachers don’t have three months off in the summer. No, teachers are not lazy. No, teachers do not have their pensions funded for them (it comes out of our pay).
The teachers I know and work with are hardworking people who love kids and love to teach. None of us entered the profession expecting to become wealthy, but we did expect to be paid fairly. We did expect to have the resources we need to best do our jobs. We did expect to be treated as professionals. We still have those expectations, in spite of years of evidence to the contrary. Why? Because we’re educators. We believe in possibilities and change.
Please support your education professionals, and if you’re in Arizona get behind #RedforEd . Arizona Educators United is a grassroots organization dedicated to improving conditions for educators and in turn for our students. Their future is worth it.