Are you listening to educators legislature?

Amidst the constant political rhetoric of education reform are our legislative bodies listening to the educators? Do they even understand what is going on in our schools? In a recent conversation with a district business manager we talked about the need for our legislative body to understand how policies affect districts. He shared how in a recent conversation with state representatives illustrated their lack of knowledge of school funding. Representatives feel ALL schools were given equal increase in fund which is not accurate.

Education reform is always a headline when it is election season. School funding always comes up. Most legislatures choose to argue “We can just throw more money at the problem!” Are we throwing “more” money at it? YES, but schools need more money to keep up with the rising costs. The minor increases in school funding don’t off set the huge infrastructural increases that districts have to pay. Schools need to pay for their facilities, electricity, water, sewer, transportation, technology, supplies, insurance and salaries. Any funding increase is quickly off-set by increase in all the other costs. Many districts in Michigan will see a $70 per pupil increase in funding, this probably won’t offset the district’s utility cost increases! This is why the newspapers are littered with articles about school lay-offs. The only place for wiggle room in most budgets is employees. Creating an atmosphere in our schools where educators don’t feel valued.

High quality teachers are being forced to make tough choices. Stay in the classroom but suffer financially or leave their education careers for greener pastures. This climate has created steep drops in school of education enrollment.  Teacher turnover is higher than ever. Is this the reform climate our politicians want? I regularly receive emails for local teachers telling their story like this one:

I’d like to start off by saying I love working in this district. I love the staff, students, and families. I look forward to coming to work each day and I take a lot of pride in the effort I put in. I’m thankful to have a wonderful administrator who lets the staff know how appreciated they are. I don’t want to leave this district, nor do I want to take time away from my family by taking a second job. However, I’m fearful that if my hard work and dedication are not reflected in my paycheck, I will have to find other ways of increasing my income.

I’ve worked in the district for five years, and due to the salary freezes, my salary is $8,405 less than what it should be according to the salary schedule. This loss of income has taken a toll on my family and me. By the time I finish my Masters degree, I will have paid $17,271 in tuition. It’s been very challenging for me to pay my tuition bill each semester as I’ve only watched my paycheck go down due to rising health insurance costs. The cost of living has risen significantly since our salary freeze started. This has made it difficult to provide for a family, save for our children’s’ college tuition, while trying to pay for our own tuition and student loans.

I’m asking you to please consider how the personal lives of your employees are effected by continuous salary freezes, and to consider releasing the freeze and re-instating our steps. Thank you for your time and consideration!

A Dedicated Employee”

Is this how we treat what we value? Lansing are you listening to teachers? We need to fix school funding! Education reform happens by showing educators that they are valued in society!

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