The 2016 election season has come and gone leaving some to mourn and others to celebrate. Regardless of which camp you are in, it’s time to ponder what the future may hold for our profession and our students. It’s time to take inventory as to what the next steps might be if we have any interest in preserving public education as we know it, which has long been considered one of the bedrocks upon which our country was founded.
Remember Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association? Many believed the United States Supreme Court was prepared to rule against organized labor until the untimely passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. Public sector unions faced the prospects of losing “agency fee” or “fair share fee” essentially turning the United States into a “Right to Work” nation. The vote wound up being a 4-4 split decision. Newsflash: we have not seen the last of this type of attack on our profession. Legislative experts predict that once the Supreme Court has nine justices, another case similar to Friedrichs will quickly be in the pipeline, probably during the 2017-18 school year. Groups such as ALEC and the Koch brothers will continue their attempts to undermine organized labor, diminish union strength, and erode the power of collective bargaining.
Another item to keep an eye on is the possible confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education. She is a billionaire businesswoman from Michigan who supports for-profit charter schools and expects little to no accountability from them. While campaigning, Donald Trump proposed a federally funded school choice program with a price tag of 20 billion dollars. DeVos may face some pushback if she attempts to implement Trump’s campaign promise since his plan requires reprioritizing federal dollars to accomplish it. Truth be told, Betsy DeVos is not a friend of public education and she has never pretended to be one.
We know our opposition: they have deep pockets, and they want to take money out of public schools. So what do we do? I believe the answer is ORGANIZE. It’s time for some grassroots activism. We are not going to be successful in this fight to preserve public education unless members get involved. Educators, we need to get out of our comfort zones and initiate conversations with parents, community members, politicians, and anyone who will listen. If that means we need to knock on some doors instead of sending an email, then so be it! Research shows that community members trust educators. We need to take advantage of this trust and let the masses know that in Ohio the money doesn’t follow the student upon returning to a public school. We need to let everyone know what great things are going on in our schools and in our classrooms. We need to have as many one-on-one conversations as we can with potential allies because I believe we are going to need a lot of them in the coming months and years.
Also attend trainings offered by NEOEA, OEA, and NEA. An example of this is NEOEA’s Megaconference which is being held on March 4 at Corporate College East. Workshops such as these will enhance your knowledge about your profession as well as increase your skill as an educator. More importantly, you may learn some valuable information which can help you have successful one-on-one conversations. Our students, now more than ever, need us to be their advocates and activists.
United we stand,
Published in our Winter 2017 issue of News & Views.