Undoubtedly by now you have heard about the unrest in the state of Wisconsin over a proposed bill to scrap the union rights of public workers, including teachers. If you haven’t heard, you can follow the link. Here is a small clip from the article courtesy of FoxNews.com (emphasis added):
As many as 70,000 people were expected to attend the dueling rallies Saturday in the wake of a budget showdown that has captured national attention and paralyzed the state.
As many as 40,000 people, including teachers, students, firefighters and prison guards, swarmed the Capitol on Friday, raising the noise in its rotunda to earsplitting levels.
The crowds have been loud but peaceful. Police reported just nine citations for minor offenses as of Friday. Schools throughout the state have closed this week after teachers called in sick, including in the state’s largest district, in Milwaukee.
I have no real set opinion on teacher unions. This is mostly because I teach in Texas where there is no teacher union so I have no personal experience being a part of one. I finally got around to watching Waiting for Superman, a documentary critical of teacher unions; going so far as to portray them as the cause of the educational slump in America. This may or may not be the case. While the film raised some good points it may have overstepped its bounds in some other areas. You can read an appropriate review of the film here.
Whatever your opinion of teachers unions, these demonstrations in Wisconsin seem a bit uncouth. Teachers calling in sick to protest and shutting down schools due to lack of available personnel seems equivalent to holding students hostage in order to make a point. Maybe the teachers protesting feel they are really helping students in the long run by taking this stand, but I don’t think they can argue that they are doing anything but hurting the students now.
I firmly believe that if you are following God’s calling for your life, it will most likely involve the forgoing of certain “rights” for the benefit of others. I also believe this is especially true in teaching. While I do not grasp all the details that have brought these protests about, it does seem like these teachers could have handled the situation in a more respectful manner.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
1 Peter 2:13-17
Now to take my own advice.
Turning our eyes back to the Lonestar State, we don’t see a much prettier picture. Though Texas has not come to protesting on the level of Wisconsin, there are some tough times ahead for public education. In a nutshell:
The Texas Comptroller released her revenue estimate for the 2011-2013 biennium. The state will have at least a $15 billion deficit for the next two years. Some experts predict the deficit could be as much as $27 billion. The state’s budget deficit will filter down to state supported institutions like higher education, health and human services and public education. Public education comprises 44% of the state’s budget.
In other words, to meet budget constraints the state of Texas will be cutting from education for the first time ever. At the same time they cut funding, they will be raising the standards students are required to meet as the state revamps its standardized testing. Here is what this amounts to:
- Some good teachers may lose their job simply due to budget constraints and not their performance in the classroom.
- Districts definitely don’t want to lose good teachers and they will cut as much from their budgets as possible before losing staff.
- This means that while many will indeed keep their jobs, their workload will increase to make up for budget cuts elsewhere.
- What few new hires there are will most likely be new and inexperienced teachers because they are cheaper.
- All the while a watching public will be expecting continued gains in student education.
If the states of Wisconsin and Texas show us anything at the moment it is this: we desperately need prayer for our schools.
Please pray for the people in government to make wise decisions when it comes to what is best for our students, their education, and their future.
Please pray for the teachers who continue to stand up in front of classrooms full of students day after day in the midst of this uncertainty. Pray that we would embody 1 Peter 2:13-17 even when we don’t feel like it.