How many kids need to be hurt in the name of profit?

By Mike Gandolfo, PCTA President

We have come to a critical moment in history. For years charter school advocates, lawmakers with financial interests in charters, and some with good intentions but not the common sense to ask a professional educator when they were unsure about education issues, have stabbed at the heart of public education. They preyed on public schools, setting them up for failure by underfunding and using meager financial incentives to turn the stakeholders of public education against each other. They smiled as teacher unions and districts fought over a living wage and impossible and illogical mandates. They grinned as parents turned on their schools and as communities searched for someone to blame for not doing the best for their children. Teachers were set against each other with performance pay, annual contracts, ridiculous bonus plans and A-plus money. It was a perfect plan supported by a propaganda program that would make Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels envious.

I have used the Goebbels reference in previous Solidarity Reports and to my surprise, I learned that lawmakers take such a keen interest in what I have to say that they actually have copies of it up in Tallahassee. Had I known of their interest I would have added them to the subscription list, but the fact that this bothered them must be a clear indication of a guilty conscience on their part.

The fact is that our students do not start school at the same level and in too many cases, those that start behind, never catch up. The answer, as my friend Joanne Lentino says, is early childhood development. The early years are crucial to brain development and character building. It is important that we have a well-funded, appropriately staffed pre-k program. Kids from families that can’t afford pre-school or need to leave their child with family members because of their work hours and then enter kindergarten with a teacher who is short-handed and charged with educating 22 students will have a hard time instilling discipline. With their expectations and pacing guide effecting their evaluations, discipline is the first casualty of a child’s personality. By the time these children reach middle school, discipline is so out of control, that many will have already been misdiagnosed as ESE or even EBD and they will be looked at as troubled children who disrupt the learning environment of the other students.

Too many poor children are left behind. Underfunding education has led to the re-segregation of our schools but it also has given us the opportunity to see how we have failed our economically disadvantaged children. I believe in integrated schools but not to mask the fact that our poor students are losing out on a quality education by artificially raising the school grade.

The reason this is a critical moment in history is because all those stakeholders who have been at each other’s throats are starting to see who the real culprits are. The propaganda against unions, educators and public schools has worn out its welcome and we now see the little men behind the curtain operating the machine. We must reach out to community and parents and work with our District to hold those who harm public education accountable.

We want a fully funded public school education. We want every school to be a safe and fun learning environment for students. We know that without discipline, learning can-not happen so let’s start our kids on the right track in pre-school and VPK. Properly staffed and full day care. Properly staffed kindergarten so that when our kids hit first grade, they hit the ground running and every teacher through grade 12 will be able to teach because discipline will no longer be the single most devastating factor that hurts our children’s education.

These are not just things we want. A free public education is the great equalizer of our society and it is the civil right of our time. Let those in Tallahassee know that their time is coming to an end. The people will speak and they value public education and their professional educators. All the stakeholders of public education are on the same page now. Dear legislators, you are either with us or against us!