We would like to comment on a blog posting at the SCORE Sheet by State Senator Andy BerkeView from the Hill: The Importance of Teacher Morale” available to read in full Here.

We all know and love a teacher and we care and want them to feel valued.  An unhappy teacher is not going to be an effective teacher.  Studies consistently show in the classroom it is the teacher, for better or worse, that has the greatest impact on a child’s learning.  However, we specifically want to address Berke’s following statements:

Our public officials can also affect teacher morale. Too often we hear public officials praise the importance of teachers, yet lambaste their performance. We should be working with and listening to our teachers in the halls of the state legislature and throughout our local governments. We must acknowledge that public officials’ actions have a very real impact on teacher morale. In just the last several weeks, we have seen lawsuits, school board fights, and highly scrutinized personnel moves across the state. Whether these actions are properly taken is not the point. Instead, we must recognize that they play a role in how excited our teachers are to perform their jobs.

Legislators are trying to help our children, not be hurtful to teachers. Did past and will future reforms of policy makers cause changes in education and for teachers? Yes. But we call on teachers not to internalize or see these reforms as an attack on them – not to let it damage their morale.  We must see and keep the focus on the education of millions of our children.

Teachers cannot be so blind as to not see our education system is broken and has been broken for roughly the last 40 years.  Surely, teachers understand reform is needed.  Although it has been said many times allow us to reinforce it, our failure to educate our children is not a failure by our teachers.  It is a failure of our education model, a centrally planned monopoly and of the roadblocks to reform which are led by teacher union leadership.  Self interest is human nature and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but at some point teachers, politicians, administrators, etc. (there’s no hope for union leadership) need to put the educational needs of children first.  Teacher’s needs, morale and comfort are very important, but children’s educational needs are more important.  Would anyone deny this?  However, with that said choice would benefit teachers just as much as students, only in different ways.  Change can be painful.  The unknown can be frightening, but how many more generations of children are to be sacrificed?

What Sen. Berke and far too many teachers, administrators and politicians fail or refuse to admit is for the last 40+/- years we have been working with and listening to our teachers in the halls of the state legislature and throughout our local governments.” Yet, we have nothing to show for it.  The lives of millions of children have been and continue to be damaged by our failed education system.  As the saying goes doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results... 

We agree with Sen. Berke.  We are not going to make any meaningful reforms in education without the support of teachers, but we disagree that teacher morale is the stumbling block.  What is the stumbling block?  The unwillingness of teachers, administrators and politicians to do their own research, to look at the evidence – gold standard studies, blind studies, real world examples, testimonials from parents and students, etc. – that school choice works.  Over and over they repeat the story lines they have been given: school choice creams & segregates, scores don’t improve, it destroys public/local schools, and on and on.  Folks, to be ignorant is excusable, but to perpetuate ignorance is unforgivable.

So what will work?  We know what works, but until the “grown-ups” start truly putting the needs of children first we will get nowhere.  The sad part is many, perhaps most, believe they are putting the needs of children first.  For some it is due to ignorance, for others it is self-deception-knowing the truth but putting self interest ahead of the children, for some they have been protecting the system so long the don’t even recognize their very actions are making children a secondary priority.

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