Monday, April 9, 2018

Dear @BetsyDeVosED THIS is what it means to "serve the students"

Dear Betsy,

I hear you aren't happy with Oklahoma teachers who walked off the job to protest the drastic cuts to school funding in their state. You told them they should "serve the students." You also called the strike by West Virginia teachers—who, along with OK teachers, are among the lowest paid in the country—an "adult squabble." Interesting choice of words from the head of a department that has, for the better part of the past 20 years, treated us like servants. Interesting choice of words from someone who knows virtually nothing about education law or policy; who never spent a day in her life inside a public school; who has absolutely no concept of what a public school teacher does or what it's like to work two, three or more jobs to keep a roof over your head; who wants nothing more than to shutter public schools and use that money to fund religious schools. 

What, exactly, should that "service" look like? Tea and crumpets and classical music at lunch? Neck massages after computer class? Or perhaps valet parking for those students who are fortunate enough to afford a car? 

How much more "service" must teachers perform? How many more classroom supplies, and food and clothing for their students must they buy with their own money? How many more students must be packed into their classrooms? How much more are they supposed to do with ever-decreasing budgets before you, or some elected official with strings attached to the oil lobby realizes what's going on in Oklahoma's schools? 

When is enough enough?

Since you continue to remain woefully ignorant of the workings of public schools (I guess that stuff's just not important to a billionairess who can build whatever school she wants with a wave of her magic wand), allow me to educate you on exactly what those teachers—and others around the country—are doing in "service" to their students:

Did you see these images? I can't imagine you didn't, seeing as how they went viral. But just in case you missed them, here's CNN's report. They were taken by real Oklahoma teachers, and are real pictures of what they have to work with every single day thanks to their state's massive education cuts. Did you have these problems when you were in school? Did your children? I bet not.

Sarah Jane Scarberry
According to the article: 
Scarberry also shared images of her classroom's broken desks and chairs, and said they weren't too bad compared to other classrooms. 
"As for the desks, I'm more fortunate than most I guess. My husband works with me at Heavener and works in maintenance. He usually can use salvageable parts from discarded desks to keep me going," she told CNN. (emphasis mine)

Sarah Jane Scarberry

Mary Burton
Teacher Mary Burton shared this picture of the anatomy books her students have to use at Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma.
"I don't have enough and the ones left are in terrible shape," she said. 
Last year, her class's 25 anatomy books were shared by about 70 students, Burton said. 
"Because graduation requirements changed, I only have one section of human anatomy, so there are enough books for my students for the first year in a long time," she said.
On Twitter, user jamiebh73 shared a photo of a textbook from her daughter's eighth-grade history class in Owasso. In the book, George W. Bush is still president, she said. (emphasis mine)

Allyson Kubat, who teaches at Mustang High Scool, just southwest of Oklahoma City, said the textbooks students in her public speaking class use are so old that they advise them to ask librarians about "this new thing called the Internet" and explain how to use microfiche. (emphasis mine)
 The article ends with this quote from Scarberry:
"I could go on for days about the things we need, and the opportunities my students deserve. For myself, a raise sounds great, but this walkout for me was never about that. It was always funding for our schools," she said. (emphasis mine)

Can you imagine this??? I can. This is what happens when states give massive tax cuts to corporations. This is what happens when teachers are treated like servants instead of highly-educated professionals. This is what happens when years of begging and pleading with elected officials, who care more about tax cuts for corporate donors than the future of this country, falls on deaf ears. This is what happens when teachers and parents say, "Enough!" This is not an "adult squabble." This is a fight for every child in the state of Oklahoma (and West Virginia and Kentucky and Arizona) to have a good education. This is what happens when teachers "serve the students."

This is a national disgrace, and as Secretary of Education, you should be leading the charge to fix this instead of trying to sweep it under the rug. The wealthiest country in the history of humanity has schools that rival those of third-world countries while our government blames teachers, slashes budgets and says testing and privatization are somehow going to magically fix everything. 

This is just the beginning. This "service" to the students is only going to grow. You would do well to educate yourself.

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