Teaching is, perhaps, the most integral role and existing profession in a functioning society. Without education and the efforts of educators who work tirelessly to lay foundations in math and science for our doctors, challenge our lawyers with critical thought, language and social studies, as well as inspire and groom our artists, there is no hope; we do not become greater, stronger, and more powerful as a whole. That is why teachers are highly regarded in local communities around the world, and why, even today, there are a number of campaigns within and programs within the United States, dedicated to attracting individuals which will lead the way for the future.
However, despite acknowledgement of their vast importance, educators around the country face challenges which threaten to further weaken the fabric of our education system. I’ve spoken previously about the effects of charter schools on students in the most vulnerable parts of our society. How, due to strict no tolerance policies and bias, children of color are treated more harshly and those with disabilities are altogether excluded from schools which promise to be the answer for an academic infrastructure in decline. However, the problems don’t begin with the treatment of students; the problem is a result of the idea that school is a business rather than an institution created to develop and educate children.
Charter schools around the country are run by for-profit management companies. Often times, their approach to public education is rooted in a desire to attract investments rather than investing in children. As a result, these organizations compete for educators and students to create storybook schools which focus on standardized testing as a measure of success. Subsequently, it is not uncommon for teachers to be expected to work demanding hours for the sake of meeting these requirements. Moreover, many do so without comparable pay, receiving considerably smaller salaries than teachers in traditional public schools. This environment has been created by the anti-collective bargaining stance perpetuated by most charters, which are also subject fewer government rules and regulations.
This lack of and overall fight against unionization undermines the value of educators. Furthermore, it is creates a system of absolute power without adequate legal representation for teachers treated unfairly. Some have argued that unions, in fact, give teachers too much power and are a threat to carrying out education reform in failing schools. However, I would argue, that is not the fault of nor the impetus behind unions. Failing schools exist for a number of reasons, namely: lack of adequate leadership, disproportionate resources, lackluster curriculums, and failure by greater powers to address systemic problems of the communities in which the school exists. Teachers, with proper skills and passion for teaching, remain on the frontlines of those fighting to not only fix these issues, but to ensure that students receive the education they deserve. In doing so, they have the right to be heard, appreciated, and compensated for the invaluable work they carry out daily, yearly and, often, for a lifetime.