Teacher Vote: Why Bother?

I have to admit from the onset I’m not a political junky.  I am not a republican nor a democrat. I’ve voted for people in both parties depending on which persons best represents myself.

I am not a guy that espouses my political beliefs  or attempts to force them on others and I certainly don’t share my thoughts and feelings on 53 bumper stickers that hang on the back of my car.

And up until now I like to think that I have been a fairly diligent citizen fulfilling my civic duty and voting in as many elections as I feel will have some baring on my community, state, or country as a whole. Sadly though I have reached such a state of disillusionment with those who govern us, and specifically as a result of those who make policies on education I am deciding strongly about not voting anymore: And I don’t feel the least bit regretful or worried about it?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well in his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech when talking about African Americans and voting:

We cannot be sastisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

Now I’m not at all trying to put the struggles of African Americans at the heart of segregation to those of teachers now, but I see a lot of teachers now who feel that they have nothing for which to vote.

Politicians are the most corrupt and dishonest people on the face of the Earth and that includes lawyers. Funny though how most politicians have background in law, so I guess that doesn’t come as much of a real shock.  I’ve been frustrated with the way education has been handled for a long time in both the state and national level. I’ve voted for change more times than I can count, and still none of that change has come.

I started teaching in the second half of George W. Bush’s first term. So, I was in my teaching infancy when No Child Left Behind came into this world. Ugliest, kid, ever.

I voted for change in the state of North Carolina, but to date I’m still waiting for some of these people to pull their heads out of the 1800s.

Two governors ago we had the “Education Governor” in Mike (S)Easily. All he did was bully the state into getting the lottery by claiming it was going to benefit education, “The Education Lottery” he called it.  What a farce that has been. For all the claims and commercials and propaganda I’m pretty sure no school, no teacher, and no district I’ve worked for has been aided that much by what has essentially become a tax that preys on those silly enough to spend their hard earned money daily in the slim chance they will strike it rich. Thanks Mike.

Our previous governor, a former teacher herself and (S)Easily’s Lieutenant Governor, promised to protect teachers but in her only term in office our pay scale was frozen and benefits cut, however we did get a half-a percent cut in pay. May not seem like much, but when you haven’t gotten even a modest cost of leaving increase in about seven years,  it is a lot.

Then we got a 1-percent pay increase about a year ago and the state legislature and our new governor Pat McCrory uses that as an excuse to tell the teachers who gripe about how educators are treated, to essentially shut up and or ignore us.  “See you got a one percent pay increase, be happy you have a job.” But for how much longer?

Teachers are leaving the profession or at the very least this state in droves. Some 10,000 teachers have to be replaced annually.

I’ve tried to personally ask McCrory about his policies that appear to focus more on fixing roads and perceived  issues with the voting system as well as his giving substantial pay increases to his cabinet his first week in office as well as his cronies, than dealing with education. He held a teleconference town hall meeting a few weeks back and called only registered republicans to make him feel better about those new policies.  He called my in-law’s house and out of curiosity I took the call in my father-in-laws absence cause I wanted the chance to ask the man a question.

After waiting on hold listening to his supporters praise him ad nauseum I was finally asked for my question for the governor by a call screener, who I could tell clearly didn’t like my question by her reaction. She then lied to me and said I’d get my chance, but there were a few people ahead of me in the call. Twenty minutes later the conference was over and my question went unasked.

McCrory would clearly prefer to answer softball questions and be praised by his fellow republicans than answer a tough question by a teacher who just wants  to know why he can’t get a pay increase but his buddies can. His answer to the education woes are to support vouchers for private schools, cut teacher’s advanced degree pay and tenure and then hope that the state will be able to somehow retain great public school teachers and attract even more.  Forget again that the state already has to replace 10,000 teachers a year already.

But it isn’t just the McCrory’s of the world. I wrote President Obama last January about the state of education. I made a passionate two page argument about what was wrong and what would be helpful. Knowing that this is a very busy man I wasn’t expected a quick response or a response at all but I got one, in June.

I was moderately interested when I opened the letter. I didn’t know what to expect, but I guessed I hoped for some affirmation of a job well done, or at the very least encouragement that things would get better and that’s he’d, even if he didn’t even mean it, would strive to make things right for us. What I got was a two page form letter full of political rhetoric,  typed by a secretar,y and signed with an autopen that addressed none of my concerns and only outlined his policies for education; few of which, I agreed with.

I felt I had poured my heart and soul in to this letter asking for the president’s help or consideration and all I got was this lousy mug. But the stationary was outstanding.

So, in those two experiences only a few weeks apart I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter who I vote for, democrat, republican, things from an education standpoint won’t change. They talk about how education is a priority but it clearly isn’t. It is an after thought. They will continue to talk about how important teachers are but ignore their plight and struggles once they are in office and more important agenda items come up.

Don’t get me wrong I am glad I have a job and sympathetic to those who don’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t want more and better treatment.  I’m not asking to be paid an exorbitant amount of money here but if a millionaire professional athlete can want more why can’t a thousandaire teacher want just a little bit more too.  And not just money but more support, and perhaps a pinch of respect.

When the next election comes up I’ll have to think long and hard about whether or not it is worth it because it doesn’t seem to matter who I vote for, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

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