January 27th, 2012
07:35 AM ET

My View: An education crisis that never should have happened

Courtesy National Education Association by Sara Ferguson, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Sara Ferguson is a 20 year employee of the Chester Upland School District where she currently teaches Literacy and Math. She is a third generation educator in Chester Upland. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Widener University, a Masters of Education in Elementary Education from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership from Cabrini College.

When I visited the White House for the first time, as a child, it was my teacher who brought me there. This week I returned, as a teacher and as a special guest of President Obama during his State of the Union Address. It was an honor to be in attendance, and I am grateful for the attention my struggling school district has received. However, if there’s one message I hope is heard across the country about the financial crisis in my school district, it is this: It’s a crisis that never should have happened.

Let’s back up for a moment. We have long had financial troubles in Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania. The majority of students here come from families living at or below the poverty level. More than 70 percent of our students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, which is more than double the state average.

In January, though, things went from bad to worse. Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett cut $860 million in state funding, which meant a 14.4% drop in funds for Chester Upland. Cuts like these disproportionately hurt school districts that are already financially distressed. On top of that, state funding was cut most dramatically in the districts that needed it most.

We then learned that our school district did not have enough money to make payroll. The 204 teachers and 64 support staff in Chester Upland were told we might not receive our paychecks.

This was a crisis for our community, because our students need teachers. It was also a crisis for all of us teachers and support staff personally, because we need to provide for our own families.

With the leadership of our the Chester Upland Education Association, though, we came together and made a decision. We had a responsibility to provide our students with the education they deserve. We decided to keep working as long as we could make ends meet.

I’m proud of my colleagues in Chester Upland, because I know that not every profession would respond the same way. Once you get into school and you get into the classrooms and see those children, though, you aren’t thinking about money. It’s not dollars and cents.

Many people have taken a positive message from this crisis, as the country has seen how our community pulled together in defense of our schools, holding candlelight vigils, and how our union worked with lawmakers until emergency measures were taken.

The most important message that needs to be heard, though, is that the financial crisis in Chester Upland School District was no anomaly. It could happen to you.

At the root of the problem in my district and in yours is an inequitable system of funding public education. As I write this, politicians across the country are trying to balance their budgets on the backs of students. They are making excuses for not giving students and teachers the tools they need to be successful. Meanwhile, too many of our school districts are nearing a fiscal crisis which threatens their students’ academic future.

We need to turn these misplaced priorities on their head. Education must be at the top of our list, not the bottom. Our students have a legal right to a quality public education, and we have a moral and legal responsibility to provide it for them.

To get our country back on track we need to invest in education. I was proud to hear that message from President Obama at his State of the Union Address, and to know that he understands why teachers and support staff devote our lives to our students. We need more politicians to speak up and say the same thing.

We need to pressure our lawmakers to make the right decisions, tackle the big issues, and rebuild an economy that works for everyone, not just for some. We need to ensure equity in education funding, so that all students can reach their full potential – not just the ones lucky enough to be born into a wealthy zip code.

I know that the economy and job security are on all our minds, but we cannot lose sight of the big picture. In addition to teaching future generations to think critically and be leaders in our democracy, public schools also prepare them with 21st century skills so that they can compete in a global economy. If lawmakers shirk this responsibility, the economic future of this country will be bleak.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sara Ferguson.

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Filed under: Policy • teacher unions • Teachers • Voices
soundoff (1,192 Responses)
  1. whale shark

    I have been around for a although now, i take into account myself a loyal reader. Just thought i would let you know!

    February 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  2. bulging

    Thanks for the excellent posts. I have been following you for a while on my rss reader, thought i would make the effort to say THANK YOU nowadays.

    February 7, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  3. Freegoidegics

    comments ought to usually be made whenever you read something as excellent as this, thanks a million

    February 6, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  4. Freegoidegics

    I just wish to say thanks, i havent posted on your blog but i have been an avid reader for fairly some time now.

    February 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  5. Concerned Student in Michigan

    There has been mention of a 'Test Preparation' class in my school, and I cannot see how this class will help any student after the high-stakes tests. Instead of focusing on creative and critical thinking, there has been more focus on rote memorization. In my school, there is no more 'Home Economics' (the closest comparable class would be a 'senior strategies' class that was recently added, and that doesn't even cover basics like sewing and cooking), and the auditorium goes unused or used as storage for most of the year since our theater class was cut. I was fortunate enough to be able to take theater before it was cut, and it has helped me immensely with public speaking. The few students who do get respectable amounts of public speaking experience are in my Agricultural Science class, in which leadership is a focus. In fact, that class has given me more life skills than any of my academic classes. Today's society focuses on test scores as if they are the answer to all of our educational problems. Many of my peers feel that the tests are too inefficient, and force teachers to teach to the test. Perhaps we should focus on progress as a factor for funding, rather than simple memorization?

    Just wanted to put my two cents in.

    February 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  6. Tom

    We could stop wasting a vast amount of the time kids are in school by getting rid of the "No child left behind" tests. They could use the time to actually, ermmm, learn, instead of prepping for a test to get funding.Ask a teacher how much time is wasted on this rote memorization, then ask yourself "Is our children learning?"

    February 2, 2012 at 5:55 am |
  7. brian

    Thanks for the excellent posts. I have been following you for a whilst on my rss reader, thought i would make the effort to say THANK YOU right now.

    February 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  8. Jeff

    She's definitely right and has pretty face than any other teacher

    January 31, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  9. rallytime

    Time for a grass roots effort to march on the capital and shame the governor into funding the schools in these poor districts. The illusion is fat cats assume the poor have no voice. Time to prove them WRONG! If this can happen here, it will happen anywhere next time. How much are we willing to tolerate until it becomes our problem?

    January 30, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • my2cents

      How much money is enough? How much more money do they need to get the job done right? There are districts out there in very poor, economically depressed areas that achieve much more with less? Also, there are districts out there that will never succeed no matter how much money you throw at the problem. Money, while important, is not the only or the best determing factor of a child's schooling success. Let's concentrate our efforts on ALL of the issues that will have a positive, educational influence on the lives of our children . . .

      January 30, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

    Here's the thing about teaching with no pay: The first time you "cave" and you're willing to do it because some of us teachers put the children before politics- they (the school districts) know they can get away with it. The next time- they'll just expect it instead of doing everything they can to make sure teachers get paid. HELL NO! WE WON"T GO! If the school districts had any respect for the teachers or the children instead of fat-cat administrators lining their own pockets with huge salaries, expensive golden parachutes, they would make sure teachers get paid, teachers have the money to buy needed materials instead of spending money out of our own pockets. The public school system in America is a broken failure filled with unkept promises by school districts and government. This is why we have teacher's unions and you need to follow the advice of your union. NO PAY-NO TEACH. Walk out! Period. This is the only way these corrupt school districts will get the message. AND WALK OUT OFTEN!

    January 29, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • David

      Hell yes.

      January 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Stephanie

      I am so glad to see a post that addresses the need to get paid. Every time one of us says "I'd do it for free in my pajamas because I love it so much and it's ok if no one wants to pay me enough to be able to afford real clothes" we are shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot with a bazooka. If we offer to teach for free they will take us up on that offer. I already make about the same as the shift manager at my nearest mcdonalds...why should I get less than any other professional? The author of this article has two master's degrees and she thinks that teaching for free, for passion, for the joy of being in the classroom takes the place of a paycheck????? Infuriating and damaging to those of us who need the money we earn to pay our bills. How am I to be a good teacher if I am constantly demoralized by the lack of pay and respect for what I do? This is where I leave off with full sentences and just start screaming in frustration!

      January 30, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  11. Nate

    I am a 26-year-old male former public educator, married with two children, who left the field because of no jobs, no money, and no respect.

    These teachers are foolish. The problem with many educators is that too many of them want to be heroes in the name of loving children, but the truth is that no matter how much you may care about the kids, it's still a job, and you need an income. Especially for men, who statistically tend to be the primary bread winners in the family, this is a very foolish act that can have negative effects for their families in the name of children that are not their own. Kudos to the teachers, especially the male teachers, in the district who were willing to say "no" to the foolish choice of letting the poor economic conditions control them by working for no money.

    January 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • D

      You're a teacher? Please google: double negatives.

      January 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  12. Merlin

    When our illustrious elected officials continue to tell us the lie "we're giving the responsibility of education back to the people" , what they really mean is: government is reducing the amount of money to pay for education, the people will pay more out of their own pockets and WE'LL continue to tell them how to do it. All the while, our teachers fight a losing battle with declining pay and bureaucratic nonsense to support mandated testing and schools are denied access to funding for performing poorly on these idiotic tests while others get the "carrot on the end of the stick". We should let our educators educate and keep politicians out of it. Parents should be actively involved in their children's education and home life activities and not just show up to meetings to discuss why little Johnny is failing or being sent to disciplinary classrooms for misbehavior. Teachers shouldn't have to call meetings to address a student's poor health issues or abuse issues from home or family members, but they do regularly. Yet for the responsibility teachers are given, their salary doesn't match. No, I'm not a teacher. I work in the chemical industry. I have had children in public schools and have been active in their educational process all the way through college. Both chose the teaching profession. One decided to make it her life's career; the other decided it was not for her and chose a different career. Of one thing I am certain. Both of my children will be successful, but it wasn't our government that accomplished that. They had some excellent teachers who encouraged and challenged them to learn, good parental support and the will to set goals and accomplish them. They overcame the broken system that dictated their educational requirements, but many won't. When this country decides it's had it's belly-full of poor decisions by elected officials and quits over-spending for the "uncommon defense" and begins spending more on our children's re-designed education, this country will be far better off and will have something to look forward to...

    January 29, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  13. my2cents

    From 2006 to 2011, the district's student population declined 4,300 to 3,600 (-16%), however, the number of district employees increased from 590 to 720 (+22%), furthermore the district’s operating budget inceased from $83 million to $114.million (+37%). Education IS very important. As such, we should insure that our tax dollars are effectively managed and wisely spent. Looking at the numbers above, while certainly not the whole story, does give an impression that the district's financial situation is not being properly managed. All too often it seems, when a local school district is insolvent, the first battle cry is too "save" our schools and secure additional funds or tax revenue. While sometimes this is indeed required, it should not be done until, until absolutely, the district's finances are fully scrutinized, hard decisions made, and the school board and district management put under a microscope and held accountable.

    I understand that many different elements factor into how and why a student succeeds or fails in school: strong and consistent parental involvement/committment, a stable and nurturing family home life, a safe and stimulating learning environment, strong and dedicated teachers operating in a system that supports/rewards them. I didn't mention money because it really goes without saying that a well funded school system is an investment in our society and our children; No, despite the commentary from Ms. Ferguson above focusing on the need for increased funding, our focus should truly be where it matters the most: on fixing a system that has long lost it's way in producing, in the vast majority of our children, responsible, well-schooled/skilled, and well-adjusted citizens that can pre-eminately compete in a ever changing global economy. We have lost our way, and the conversations on school reform of the last 30-40 years focusing on throwing ever increasing dollars at the problem has at best, been counter-productive and, at worst, criminally ineffective and short-sighted. I think most of us, when we hear the ever strident pleas for additionaly funding, while alarmed and concerned, naturally want to know where all the other dollars went, and for what gain, before throwing more hard earned dollars down an ever voracious black hole.

    I believe that most teachers honestly want to do a good job. I further believe that a great teacher is worth their weight in gold and should be compensated accordingly. But mostly I believe how we "do" education in this country wrong; that our country has been walking down the wrong road for some time without a map. We need to tear down our existing system and totally rethink and rebuild from the ground up, taking into account and balancing the needs of all: society, the children, and the truly dedicated teaching professionals that, far too often these days, are unrecognized for the yeoman's work that they do day in and day out. We are all responsible. We will continue reap what we sow. It's about time that we all come together like rationally thinking adults and get this thing fixed. Because, if not now, when?

    January 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Janet

      As a public high school Physics teacher for many years I can say the the ineffectiveness of the public schools in the U. S. is our biggest national security issue!

      January 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
      • my2cents

        Janet, as an experienced public school educator, where do you see the system's primary problems? What do you think are the solutions are? BTW, when you said you were a high school physics teacher, I had a flashback! Please don't take this personally, but my physics teacher was terrible !! Really, he was the high school basketball coach, who for some reason taught the physics class, clearly didn't have mastery of the material (we were constantly correcting him). Well, he's long sinced retired. Hope there aren't many like him among your colleagues ! Lord knows this country needs all the bright and dedicated physics teachers (as well as, other science and math teachers) that we can attract to our nations high schools . . . Lastly, I recall that my year long physics class was an elective (should have been mandatory for all!). Is it still that way?

        January 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  14. chuck

    Damn she's ugly!

    January 29, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • unowhoitsme

      Keep your rude comments to yourself. Beauty liea within. Helping children is a beautiful trait.

      January 30, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  15. Gary M

    Wouldn't it nice if all the campain funding giving to our poiticians by the corporations was also matched and given to our public schools?

    January 29, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  16. Stella

    Schools spend too much money on things they shouldn't. They should pay for quality teachers, books and computers and a clean, safe location to learn in. Instead money goes to free food, several meals a day, and supplies that should be paid for by the parents. I took a bag lunch to school, a PB&J and an apple. Before the howling starts, that lunch costs less than a dollar, 20% of what school lunches cost the state apiece, and it was perfectly healthy and made by my own mother in about 30 seconds, and yes she had a job so don't get that pity party going either. Southern California schools are a failed experiment in social engineering. Sadly instead of fixing it people just do more of the same and make it worse.

    January 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • lynne

      The high school where I teach has 80 percent of its kids on free or reduced lunch. They eat breakfast and lunch at school and then do not eat again until they get there for breakfast the next day. Our school serves lunch to the free lunch students through the summer because for many of them it is the only meal they will see. Many of my students hate weekends and only show up to school each and every day even if sick because it is their source of food.
      Now, I think it is wonderful that you had a hard-working mom who spent that little bit of extra time to make sure that you had something to eat at school, and yes, in a perfect world every child in this country would have the same. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
      Before you get up in arms, I realize that some of this may fall on the parents, and if they were more responsible or less absent, this could be fixed, and in some cases that may be true, but I am not prepared to punish the students for this. Every child deserves to eat and be safe from hunger.

      January 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
      • D

        How pathetic is this statement? The only meals that these children will see in a day come from the free breakfast and lunch served at the school. Where are the concerned and outraged parents? Why is it that the only time they become concerned are when these free daycare services are threatened?

        Schools are for education. They are not soup kitchens. They are not orphanages. The parental expectation that all of a childs needs(education thru social welfare) will be met through the public school system are unreasonable and responsible for gross over expendatures and poor educational quality. Schools are not an alternative to parental support but a means to provide the educational tools to thrive.

        February 2, 2012 at 5:14 am |
  17. Kwabena Brako

    Very inciting piece of work. I support your suggestion.

    January 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  18. scedu1273

    Why don't we pay doctors based upon how many of their patients get sick each year, and law enforcement officers based upon how many crimes are committed in their area, or teachers on how well their students perform on a Test? Oh, wait we already do that to teachers. So when are we going to start with the other two groups? Judging someone based upon what other people do is wrong!

    January 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • kapril

      right on!

      January 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • unowhoitsme

      Now we have the teaching profession "teaching to the test" instead of teaching ALL the skills needed at each grade level. We have kids graduating (about 75% make it to graduation) without having the skills they need for life, let alone college. It's why we now rank 26 and 35 in the world in math and science. Teaching to a test for pay doesn't solve any problems, but has created more "learning disabled" children. Students don't have the skills necessary to pass these tests, then unwarrented and unnecessary labels are put on them, because districts don't want to take on the responsibility for failing. Labels in turn give school district more money from the Federal government to aid "handicapped" children and cause these now "special needs" children to fail due to poor self image. School failure is put on the children, then schools capitalize on it.

      January 30, 2012 at 7:03 am |
  19. mr. james

    sounds like a classroom in here

    January 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  20. Jeremy

    Thanks for the upbeat, encouraging statements about my occupation. Well, back to grading tests and planning lessons for the upcoming week. I wish I could just sit back and relax on my weekends like other people.

    January 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Danny

      You can. Find another job if you are so miserable.

      January 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
      • Teachtoexhaustion

        If we all left, who would teach? Its not the good teachers who leave their work at the "office".

        January 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  21. AngryTeacher

    Can we fire parents?

    Seriously. I can tell you the difference, 98% of the time, between a passing student and a failing student. That difference is the parent. I know, I know, you didn't want to hear the truth. It is easier to blame the teachers because they are the ones who are supposed to be waving the magical education wand over the kids head. You know the wand we all possess that magically makes kids understand everything in the one hour we see them for the subject we teach. What, you didn't know about the magic wand?

    You know the magic wand that is supposed to give very kid knowledge while they sit in class and do nothing. The wand that is supposed to make not doing homework and studying turn into complete understanding of an objective. The wand that is supposed to make bad behavior disappear by politely asking. The wand that is supposed to make parents give a crap. The wand that people who have never taught, though they feel like they can discuss it like an authority on the matter, thinks exist.

    I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but it does not exist. Shocking right?

    Yep, I know what you're thinking now. You're thinking all these things happen because I am a horrible teacher. I must be, right? Great teachers have a command of their classrooms. Great teachers teach everything and the students get it in an hour. Yes, this does happen in schools where most parents give a crap. In schools where the students don't get a healthy dose of "teachers are horrible" or " nobody is going to tell me what to do" or "why did you fail me", it doesn't. In schools where students don't miss 20+ days of school, that happens. In schools where students come in with with discipline and work ethic, that happens. In schools where teachers don't have to try to undo 7 years+ of unhealthy lifestyles that have been embedded in a child's psyche, that happens. And even within those schools, the students who succeed are the ones whose parents actually give a crap, and I mean the ones that really give a crap and not just give lip service in a meeting. Not the parent that comes to school and claims that teachers are horrible even though their student does no homework, does not study, and does not pay attention in class. Not the parent that can't tell you what their child is learning this week even though teachers constantly send home a summary of the week's objectives, how to work at home with the student, the homework that will be assigned, and examples of how to do the problems/work with the students(which is me trying to help the parent so they can help teach their child at home). Not the parent that only shows up after weeks of weekly test grades, weekly individual progress/grade/behavior sheets, and countless phone calls/emails, because now, NOW, their child is in trouble. Forget all the prevention that was tried, the contact that was being made or all the evidence that was presented building up to the incident/culmination of the course the student. No, no, no....I'm just a bad teacher. I just can't teach. I am just there collecting my undeserved paycheck.

    I can teach. I am a damn good teacher. I create lesson plans that touch on the different levels, as well as the different learning styles, of my students. They can choose to take a traditional test, write a report, create a powerpoint, write and record a song, make a play, make a video, or even come up with their own way of showing me that they have an understanding of the objectives we are studying. Now, this is the stuff that we are told works because students are engaged and not just sitting in a desk writing. However, I still have students that won't do anything? My fault? Absolutely not, but I already talked enough about them. What about those that do these things and still fail your "oh so wonderful" standardized tests. My classes routinely falls slightly above my districts average. We aren't at the top and we aren't at the bottom. I constantly pull my hair out wondering why these students don't score higher after I get my butt chewed that not everyone in my class scores the top score. I see them do it. The ones who do, get it. The ones that don't, don't. It is that simple. My class's score gets brought down because of two things: 1. the students that don't participate in their education. 2. Those stupid, horrid, abominations of tests.

    I'm encouraged to differentiate my assessments to make sure every student is engaged and participating in their learning style. However, the powers that be, decide that there will be only one way, one test to determine how effective I am, as well as how much progress a student is making. Anyone should be able to see that the two styles do not, and will never, compliment each other. How can a student who has been creating powerpoints or making comic books to show understanding be expected to sit in a seat and answer questions on a test that was made by adults who a) can't remember what it was like to be a kid sitting in those desks, b)are making questions to outsmart themselves, and c) are not using any of the methods teachers use in their classrooms? The knowledge should translate, but the method of testing can throw the students off. I agree we need to have students who can think critically, but those tests questions are just alien. I'm sorry but even if you are average in math and you have never seen a question presented in the way they are asking you are already being set up for failure. There needs to be a better way. Not easier or dumbed down, just better.

    I'm going to wrap this up because I feel like I am just babbling now.

    Education only works if you have all three parties are participating. I know people don't want to hear that because they feel bad blaming the kids, but it is the ugly truth. That is a big problem in our society right now, blaming others and not looking inward first. Believe me, I have looked inward every year I have taught. I give my all. 95% of my students who give it their all have great success. The ones that don't have great success after giving their all have something called pride that they can hang their hat on and without a doubt, I know one day they will find that thing that they will have success with and they will take it to great places. The ones that don't give their all, but give a good effort, I try to inspire them to find something that they want and go for it, but a little hard work in school will help them get it easier and more doors are opened the better an education you have. Those that don't, I just keep plowing ahead, trying to inspire, trying to help them find that thing, that one thing that just might break the cycle. Unfortunately, I have more who do not in my class than those who do. The ones that do can talk about and know the subject matter, but do not do well on standardized tests.

    I truly believe that you teach students how to think and not just memorize. However, memorization has its place in education. I would love to say that life is like a movie where a teacher comes into a bad situation, there is a montage, and then viola, every passes and there is an uplifting scene at the end of the movie....it just doesn't happen that way all the time. My first group of students is now in high school. When they come back and thank me, or tell me that a teacher was impressed with how much they knew when they got there they thank me, but I just tell them they did all the work, I just gave them the tools.

    But, remember, I am one of those bad teachers that standardized test scores are about to get canned. I know what you are thinking. It is my fault. I'm not as good as I think I am. I must be bad if I'm about to get sacked. That is simply not true. Because, you see, that was me two years ago. As of last year I am at a private school where parents pay to send there children to school. Where it is the student that the parent holds responsible for bad grades. There are real consequences for bad behavior. I still teach the same way. I won Teacher of the Year and my classes scored the highest on their standardized tests in the state. The only thing I see different is the parents....

    So, once again, can we fire parents.....

    January 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Spar0056

      While your speech was a liitle soap boxish I think you are right on regarding parent responsibility and student sucsess. Also, thank you for caring enough to stick wih education and abandoning the burocratcy that I think most people posting are really frustrated with. I would like to get your responses to a few thoughts.
      1. This article is about money, and it states that lack of money is the reason for chester's failure. I don't believe that any sum of money can compensate for poor parenting so once a school is funded to around the national average, spending more on failing kids is money down the drain.
      2. I would be willing to bet that your private school has lower per student costs than the failing public school you left.....not always the case but it hold true most of the time. How are you paid at your new school and have any of your former coworkers thought about joining you.
      3. I think most of the people making coments from the parents perspective on this site are just frustrated because they done feel like they have any control over their childrens education. For the people who care but don't have the money for private school, I think vochers would help them regain control and make them feel more engaged. I think having that power would not only help end round the bureaucracy you and they complain about but also demand from those parents more involvement.

      Like I said, I actualy would like to hear your thoughts as a educator who left public school.

      January 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
      • AngryTeacher

        Vouchers are a mistake. Vouchers assume that the school and teachers are solely at fault for the "score" they get. You tell the parents, it isn't your fault and you still don't have to do anything if you drop them off here at "school x". It feeds into the whole "don't try harder your child will magically get an education at this other school" idea. That isn't the case. See the whole point, soapbox-ish or not, I was making is that teachers bust their humps to teach but if effort isn't made by student or parent then it will never show in "scores". Vouchers are just a politicians way to say "see I'm doing something so you don't have to...Now vote for me because it isn't your fault."

        My pay is better at my new school. I was recruited to work at my new school after the administration was pointed to my website and saw all the things I did with my students. So while my peers did not follow me, the rest of the staff is largely made up of ex-public school teachers.

        I know the article was about money, but my soapbox was meant more for some of the people that are replying to this article. My former district mismanaged money for years. Now they, just like most other districts, are misdirecting the attention from them to the "horrible" teachers. See nobody talks about them and their crappy contracts and trips to wonderful "place x" for educational research "wink wink". No they cry Maude Flanders cry of "will somebody think of the children"...and the suckers buy it hook, line, and sinker. Do we have a lower cost per pupil? I don't know. I don't have to ask here. We have parents that will donate things, offer to buy things, I constantly have at least 15 parents a week asking me to volunteer to do something for me. The parents organize fundraisers for supplies or needs. So maybe it really isn't about the money, but more about the community coming out to support the school and its teachers. Now think if all parents did this. What about instead of attacking our schools we rally around them. I know, you must teach at a school full of rich students....I don't. I just teach at a school where parents give a crap and are will to act to help, and not criticize and attack.

        One last thing, the parents...... Your comment about parents just not feeling they are in control of their children's education is exactly what they are being fooled to think. A child's education should begin at home at the earliest age possible. You don't just wait until your child enters school. But hey, it isn't their responsibility. The school is responsible for my child's education. No parent ever, ever looks at how the districts spend their money. And when a teacher does it, these comments are what she gets. Don't you think that if a teacher really got all that money per student that they wouldn't have everything they needed to teach? No most of it is lost paying bloated contracts for materials and other things. In order for me to spend a grant that I had won I had to, HAD TO, go through their contracted computer supplier. If I had bought the computer from a retail store it would have cost me roughly $400. However, their supplier charged $1300. So that is how much they spent per computer that they bought......disgusting.

        P.S. A soapbox speech is often needed to inspire and encourage students. So, if that was a dig at me I actually take pride in it.


        January 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Ms.Nikkie

      Well said. Took the words right out of my mouth! If Johnny comes to my class with an IQ of 50, how in the WORLD do you expect him to pass a standardized test he can't read, and have the audacity to blame me? No, have him take a test the goes along with his IEP, and see how well he does then. Every child can learn, but every child might not learn the same way, or on the same day. It is what it is.

      January 29, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  22. DJ McFly

    HEY SARA: What Do You Do The Other 3 Months?

    January 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • M Ed.

      Probably what I and most other teachers do...continue to work.

      January 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • diana bitting

      I live with a teacher and the answer is teach summer school, work a roofing job, or work a landscaping job.

      January 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  23. Teacher

    Try this link instead:

    January 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  24. Teacher

    Bringing this forward because I think it is so good with all the teacher haters out there:
    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxsOVK4syxU&w=420&h=315%5D

    January 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • DJ McFly

      I Dislike The Many Incompetant Leachers (Union Teachers) Who Are Sucking The Stated Dry!

      January 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
      • Harry

        You're a fool. Why don't you try managing a roomful of people displaying extreme cases of non-adult, childlike behavior and see how things go. Teachers do the job that must be done ,that can't be done by most people. You're a fool, fool.

        January 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • diana bitting

        Hard to believe, from your posts, that you ever paid any attention to a teacher.

        January 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  25. someone

    I think everyone in the comments so far is just trying to shift blame to someone else. It's pathetic, really. Everyone is a part of this.

    January 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Randy

      I don't have any children. How am I a part of this?

      January 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Get Real

      I don't live in any VILLAGE.

      January 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  26. Randy

    Take the salary of the President and all Government officials and take all the money from welfare and food stamps and put it towards our schools. Problem solved.

    January 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      Throwing money at the problem is not going to solve it – it's been tried before. The problem is how to get knowledge into the heads of kids that care more about social status with their peers. Money doesn't make people intelligent. Lot's of people win the lottery and are then flat broke a year later.

      January 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
      • Randy

        I know that. I was being sarcastic, being the right wing conservative hatemonger that I am!

        January 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • electricgrendel

      Oh yeah. Problem solved! Because we all know that children living in grinding poverty with nothing to eat and nothing to wear will definitely make excellent students.

      January 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • teacher

      well, the financial problem would be aussaged, but the cultural problem, why generations of children are becoming increasingly dumb, would continue unabated.

      January 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  27. J142

    And these comments are exactly why teachers will never be paid like they should. Nice going.

    January 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Get Real

      you must be kidding,

      January 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  28. Karl in Kalamazoo

    Widener university, Cheney college and Cabrini college are not really tier 1 or 2 schools to begin with so don't value much in what she says. Plus education graduate degrees are non thesis non rigorous just come to class after work and pay tuition and you get a degree programs for the most part.

    January 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Kane

      That's your argument? "Oh, she didn't graduate from a school like Yale, so let's not listen to her."
      I'm going to dismiss YOUR statements because I now have a prejudice that people from Kalamazoo aren't very bright.

      January 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
      • kapril

        haha! I appreciate the chuckle 🙂

        January 29, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Harry

      Kalamazoo? What do you know about anything, growing up in a bassackwards town like that. This person is tiers above you Karl. There are many Intelligent who are not, nor do they aspire to be, rich. Consequently they cannot afford the $50,000 top tier schools. This women deserves better from you, man. This this country going dumb, like you Karl.

      January 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • teacher

      Implying that this teacher's degrees in education are inconsequential in order to discredit his/her argument is a neanderthal-level approach to things. it's just too easy to glibly dismiss someone by discrediting them rather than confront their position on the intellectual level their arguments merit.

      January 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
      • Karl in Kalamazoo


        January 29, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • D10

      She went to expensive schools for her education in reality; and, all she is getting a poor school teacher job.

      January 29, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  29. Ed R

    This woman is teaching math with degrees in Psychology? No wonder the school is failing its children.

    January 28, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Kane

      Her primary degree (Masters>Bachelors) is in elementary education, a curriculum which covers the range of elementary to middle school subjects that MOST adult Americans should have no problem remembering. The testing qualifications many teachers have to meet in order to be certified in an area of study are very stringent, at least in Florida. Furthermore, her degrees in elementary education make her MUCH more qualified to teach math and literature to children, than someone with Doctorates in either subject, something that's made painfully obvious in any college classroom: even most professors readily admit that being a great mathematician doesn't make you a great math teacher.

      So try your hand at teaching, or put your ignorance away.

      January 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
      • Harry

        Thank you. By reading stupid posts like his you see how it is apparent that our American schools have failed many years ago. With no baseline for state tests that old, we can only assume we are actually succeeding.

        No wonder the GOP uses whistle-blowing, pandering, race-baiting techniques to garner their support. Their little tent is held up by uneducated fools without the ability to reason.

        January 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • teacher

      Feel free to refer your complaints to your school's customer service department.

      January 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  30. Angelina joleeee

    The writer has a great face for radio!!

    January 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Harry

      You'll get yours, ***hole.

      January 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  31. DDavis

    Communities that cannot support their schools, should shut them down.....I know that busing is unpopular but that would be the least expensive...the plus would be for the students.

    January 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Harry

      Like Chernobyl, right?

      January 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • D10

      Accurate statement! Stop supporting schools with no chances of success!

      January 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  32. Get Real

    I hope this slave person will pay back her student loans before asking taxpayers to subsidize her retirement.

    January 28, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • engteach

      How ignorant are you?

      January 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Harry

      This woman is better than you in so many ways. You're a real loser and your mom will one day disown you as she tells you to get out.

      January 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  33. Middle school teacher

    I have read many comments on here about accountability. I have no trouble being accountable but when are we going to make the parents accountable? I can not make a child do their homework, I can't make a child go to bed before 2 am, and I can't make a child care about whether they behave in class or not. I have students that disrupt my class and make it so that the kids that are there to learn, can not learn. I call the parents and they just put it back on the school instead of the child. Hold me accountable but it is time to get back to the basics of discipline and respect and then you can hold me accountable.

    January 28, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Steve- Illinois

      Even I agree that your comment has credibility. Schools need to focus on their true problems, instead of boards, and administrators wasting time on such nonsense as zero tolerence, which goes completely against the whole basis of education where every situation, and child, is different and should be handled accordingly. Punishing someone who brings a plastic picnic knife to school, the same as someone with a hunting knife is ludicrous!
      Schools need to focus on educating!

      January 28, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • rh

      One bad teacher can damage HUNDREDS of children. One bad parent can damage their own kids.

      If you are a good teacher, try your best and get through to as many kids as possible. But PLEASE – don't ask us to put up with bad teachers because of all the many teachers who try, bust their butts, buy supplies on their own dime, stay late.

      I had an AP teacher who said I never made up work, yet I was there before school for three weeks making up lab work I missed due to illness. He gave me a D for that quarter. I got a 5, highest AP exam grade, on the test. It is not test scores that are the problem, but teachers who demoralize kids. With working parents, we are lucky to be with our kids for 4 hours when they are awake. Teachers have them 6 hours per weekday.

      Don't make your competence, or excellence for that matter, make our children put up with damaging teachers because of tenure protection. You owe it to yourself to rid your profession of the worst, and properly compensate the best.

      January 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
      • engteach

        Actually, we have them for roughly 40 minutes a day.

        January 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
      • Anne

        So , I guess you know about being an educator because you went to school? I'm sorry that you had a bad teacher (and bad teachers should be fired), but please don't presume to know anything about teaching if you have not done it. I wonder if you know how to be a doctor because you've gone in for check ups?

        January 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  34. Steve- Illinois

    Interestingly enough, after rereading all the comments, and responses, from those claiming to be teachers, not a single one advocates for accountability, effectiveness, performance, or places any responsiblity for the results on the teachers! Only money can solve the problem!

    January 28, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • GwT

      You don't get it. How can our educational system and its employees be accountable for a "product" that is not tangible, is not perfect, and is not in any way consistent? As it's been said time and again, kids are not "widgets", and if educators do not have the funding to meet the needs of PEOPLE, if the system itself is so underfunded that the resources are not available to meet the myriad needs of PEOPLE, and if those PEOPLE themselves do not have a vested interest in equality in education, when funding is based upon zip code and is not equitable, how can teachers be held accountable when at every turn, they are NOT GIVEN THE RESOURCES TO DO THEIR JOBS IN AN INHERENTLY INEQUITABLE SYSTEM? Our educational system is broken, not by the decisions and actions of educators, but by the limitations and demands placed upon it by our society.

      January 28, 2012 at 11:42 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        Sorry, but it is you that doesn't get it! Schools are not, and were never meant to be, everything to everybody! Schools need to stick to their purpose of educating! I understand that government, and politicians have had a lot to do with schools being sidetracked from their true purpose, but that doesn't change the fact that more money does not result in a better educated populace. The system needs to be changed. Any change that leaves accountability, and performance out of the system, at every level, is destined to fail!

        January 28, 2012 at 11:52 am |
      • me

        throwing more money at anything makes it better. everone knows that. the more capital you have the more resources you have . that means it's easier to do your job. That is the basic foundation of capitalism. sorry but that's the system you all like. that's just how it has to be.

        January 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  35. Spar0056

    When I first read this art cal I was inclined to take it at face value. However, after some research, I have learned that this teacher is full of it. The I live in a DES moines suburb similar in size to the Chester upland distrct. Our schools are highly rated with a a wide range on extracurricular actvities and class options. Our per pupil spending is ~$8500' and our overall school rating is 9/10. Chester's per pupil spending is $12850 and their average school rating is 2/10. The are spending 50% more then our school district and are failing horribly. This is not a problem of funding and this teacher is passing the buck.

    January 28, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Steve- Illinois

      Another comment that sees through the smoke!

      January 28, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Get Real

      I iove the MONEY ,DON't stop funding our retirements, that 's what she's saying.BS,IT's a free country to work where you can,stop BEGGING FOR MONEY>

      January 28, 2012 at 11:19 am |
      • Dawn

        if all the teacher left that area would you teach the children?

        January 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Ollie

      You are still comparing apples (Iowa) to oranges (Pennsylvania). Every state and every community allocates and funds education differently. Depressed areas cannot generate the local funds (taxes) that more affluent areas can. States manipulate education budgets and it all leaves struggling areas further behind. Please – what is done in your community and state is NOT what happens everywhere.

      The tired raving about accountibility has ignored every educator's plea for just that, but with a level playing field. I am absolutely accountable for what I stand and deliver in my class, but I cannot account for lost instructional time when students are absent, for behavior problems, for uninvolved parents, for comparisons between schools that ignore the impact of resources. Affluent districts simply have more – especially they can afford more support staff, the assistants that can work in classrooms to help struggling students or to help accelerate advanced students.

      January 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
      • Erik

        Well said!

        January 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
      • Spar0056

        I empathize with your coments regarding absenteeism and associated issues. However, your comments regarding funding don't hold water. The funding for the our schools is the total funding from all sources, state, local, and federal, and that comes to $8500/student. This is no screcret fund where there are extra millions pumped into the rich kids. The total funds for Chester are $12800/student. That most of that districts funding is from the state level doesn't change that in order for their to be an "even playing field" with regard to funding, Chester needs to send $2000/student our way.

        January 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • A Local

      Have you ever been to Chester Upland District? Does your suburb have the same level of poverty that this district does? Is the cost of living in your area of Iowa the same as the cost of living outside of Philadelphia (this I know for a fact is not true). I have been there and I know teachers who have worked there. You know where that "extra" $2000 per student is going? To pay for free breakfasts and lunches and supplies for students whose families cannot afford them. To pay for after school activities to keep students off the streets and out of the local gangs. It doesn't just have to do with the size of the district, it has to do with where the district is and what the local economy is like.

      January 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  36. DaVe

    Unfortunately, poverty stricken areas will always suffer. This has as much to do with the community as the school. Its about your tax base. If you don't have one, you won't be able to create a successful school district. I'm not casting blame on any group, just pointing out that the economy is to blame as much as anything. Get people working, and you'll improve your school funding.

    January 28, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Steve- Illinois

      As long as you believe school funding is the only answer, the problem will never be solved!
      School funding has an effect, to a point, but is by, and far, not the solution to solving the problem.

      January 28, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  37. JOE

    For starters maybe kicking the teachers unions out on there azzes

    January 28, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Eric

      Yes, that would likely encourage all the folks on the side-lines to try and get those teaching jobs once their pay, benefits, and job security are weakened! Well thought out. I never realized that the solution to the problems in public education were so simple.

      January 28, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Michael Jarzabski

      Good teachers don't want bad teachers in the profession. The school board creates and agrees to the contract with areas that have unions. School board members should blame themselves if they have a contract that prevents removing bad teachers. There are evaluating systems for administrators to use in order to discover bad teachers and help them become good. If that doesn't work then fire them. It takes a lot of time and money to train good teachers. However, many administrators aren't doing their job and bad teachers never get the training or help. Many states don't have unions.

      January 28, 2012 at 10:33 am |
      • Eric

        That point, one of the strongest in this debate (imo), is always ignored. If the rich make a million off of a business deal because they negotiated a successful agreement then they're lauded. I make this argument all the time. I'm not even in public education anymore and i still push this argument. Teaching in a private school, i'll sit down and negotiate my own contract. The school can't offer more than they can afford to pay. If they do, it's not MY fault. How's that for accountability?

        January 28, 2012 at 10:37 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        Michael, the teachers union has nothing to do with the provisions of these contracts? The school boards volunteer to insert these "non-firing" provisions?

        Are teachers unions not made up of teachers? Do teachers unions not represent the teachers at their request? Do teachers have zero say in their own union matters?

        These provisions are entered into solely because the majority of teachers demand them! If they didn't, they wouldn't exist!

        January 28, 2012 at 10:53 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        Eric, in a private school setting you are 100% correct. If they pay more than they can afford, it is their fault. Public schools are completely different since both sides are negotiating with other people's money!

        January 28, 2012 at 11:05 am |
      • Ollie

        What contracts have 'no-firing' clauses, Steve from Illinois? Are you serious? Have you seen this or are you repeating something someone sent to you in an eMail?

        I work under a contract that requires my evaluation EVERY YEAR. If I fall short, I am put on a plan for improvement. If I can't get it together after that, I can be non-renewed. That is contract speak for let go or fired. This process involves a huge amount of work from the evaluation to the series of observations, to intense conversations about what the TRUE deficiencies are and how to improve performance. My contract demands that both the teacher and the administrator work together and be professional. It removes the specter of nepotism that is rampant in other business realms and creates a clear and fair process. If after all of this I still can't hack it, I don't get another contract.

        January 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  38. JOE

    Throwing more money at education is wrong. The system is broke. Money won't fix it. Accountability for once will. Fire the bad teachers. The dems are great for no accountability. blame everything on the 1%. Guess what people, look in your own closet.

    January 28, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Ollie

      So, Joe, what makes a bad teacher? My students might say I am because I am mean. Yes, I hold them to some standards like getting work in on time and assigning detention for behavior issues.

      Based on test scores, this year I am a great teacher. Last year, I was not. Student abilities ebb and flow.

      So, am I good or bad? Tell me, Joe, for I need to know!

      January 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Burt Way

      Lets toss out a wild idea. Every year the Teachers vote on their own members. The one I know always talk about who is great at motivating kids, who is a truly learned person, who is a goof off, who is biased and unfair, etc. OK, I tossed, the rest of you bat it around.

      January 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  39. Michael Jarzabski

    It is time we all start working together to find a solution. Blame only incites us to inflict pain on each other until we are chasing our tails not a solution. Start attending your local school board meetings and you will soon see that educators have never been in control of the funding or testing process. Parents and educators need to become partners not enemies and demand that the legislators of our states and country save our children's future before it is too late!

    January 28, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Steve- Illinois

      Who designs the tests? A mechanic? Truck driver? The local manager at Wal-Mart??
      These tests are designed by educators! You have your own peers in the field of education to blame for what's on the test!

      January 28, 2012 at 10:55 am |
      • leslietx

        Wrong! Many of the people who write the standardized tests have never stepped foot into a classroom as a teacher, or haven't done so in many, many years. Just as our school board members are made of non-teachers...instead the board is made of local businessmen and women who know nothing about teaching children. These people make decisions that affect our children and our education system based on what they perceive as "educational", when in reality they run the district like a business, which is the worst way to treat a child's education. Do not blame the teachers...most of the teachers I know work so hard and put hundreds of dollars of their own money to buy supplies for their class and students who can't otherwise afford them. The other problem is parents...they seem to think that they can leave their child at school and dust their hands of any responsibility at home. So many problems...we are producing a nation of undereducated children and most of the blame is not on teachers.

        January 28, 2012 at 11:13 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        Google the test, see who designed it, almost every one will hold a PHD in education.

        January 28, 2012 at 11:17 am |
      • Ollie

        Come on, Steve. . . You sound like a smart guy, but you are missing a BIG issue here. There are multi-million dollar industries out there trying to get fingers into public Ed money. They create the tests, the texts, AND they are the ones lobbying Congress about the failure of schools. These same corporations are seeking to open charter schools, the are pushing vouchers. . . All to get that money. If you think for a moment they really care about your kids and their education, you have eagerly donned their rose colored goggles.

        This whole movement is about creating a MARKET. And it sounds to me like you are buying it all. They are seeking to profit from your tax money, on the backs of your kids.

        January 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
      • Mike

        Steve gets all his information from Google. That's why he's constantly misinformed.

        January 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  40. g.r.r.

    This woman pushes education, however, she has it somewhat wrong. Education is important, but restarting our economy is needed to be able to afford it. Clinton had it right: Its the economy, stupid.

    January 28, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  41. Mike

    To: "Steve-Illinois"

    Shut the hell up. Your posts reveal your stupidity. What changes do you suggest that would have any bearing on the classroom? I've heard your kind of GOP-style criticism of public education before. And yet NO ONE, Repub or Dem can offer suggestions that are in the best interest of children, or go to the root(s) of the problem: among them are poverty, mandatory budget/program cuts, underage/uneducated parents, language barriers, and unfair/non-standard testing practices.

    January 28, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Steve- Illinois

      Shut the hell up? God help us if you're a teacher! Solutions you want? How about some accountability anywhere in the educational system? How about good teachers standing up publicly in an effort to get poor teachers removed from classrooms? Since we have the most expensive educational system in the world, and nowhere near the most effective, how does throwing more money at it make it better? In Illinois, over a 18 year period, 18 teachers were fired by school districts for poor performance. 18! Out of over 100,000! These firings cost the school districts over $200,000 each, on average, to process! This must be the most competent work force since the beginning of mankind! Anytime, anyone, tries to place any kind of accountability on our education system, the outcry from teachers, and administrators, is deafening! You can't judge a childs learning by testing, yet every teacher tests their students! Teachers and their unions fight against random drug testing! Why? Why is it unnecessary to require those we entrust our children with are not abusing drugs, yet truck drivers are required to submit to random drug tests? As far as "unfair testing" goes, what is the response to these highly educated professionals? They immiediately start a process commonly referred to as "teaching to the test." How about effectively teaching the subject so students can pass the test!
      "Shut the hell up!" What a highly educated response to criticism that is!

      January 28, 2012 at 10:00 am |
      • texgirl2762

        I am a teacher (seventh graders, 18 years in the classroom). Are you an educator? My guess is you are not. You spout off about all these changes that need to be made, yet you have no idea how the system really works. Administrators and school boards (i.e., the bosses) do not want change or innovation. They just want to move the kids in and move them back out, year after year. The few parents who do care are pretty much powerless, too. This country stopped caring about real education decades ago.

        January 28, 2012 at 10:12 am |
      • raggedhand

        Again, you're making assumptions based on your feelings and half-truths you've absorbed as if they were facts. What makes you think teachers object to drug tests? Have you actually talked to a high school teacher who refuses to be tested? If you know of any druggie teachers, why aren't you turning them in to their schools?

        What makes you think that good teachers like having bad teachers a colleagues? I've never, in the history of teaching in the US, have heard of a single teacher that had the ability to fire an inept colleague. That's the admin's job and there are plenty of mechanisms to do so. In my non-union state all the upper admin has to do is simply dissolved the job and not renew the contract. This is done EVERY year to hundreds of teachers across the state. If you look at the number of disputed firings, where a teacher is let go during the contract year for cause, yes, you'll see very few. But the numbers of teachers who look for their next year's contract in the mail in April and it's not there....they've been fired. They are told their job no longer exists, they're taken off the books and in August there is a sudden realization that yes, we really do need 10 English teachers, not nine and a new teacher is hired. That's the way the system works and to say that inept teachers are not fired as easily and as often as they are in any government job is nonsense. A teacher is MUCH more easily let go than any fireman, government DPS worker, or policeman because of our yearly contract system.

        January 28, 2012 at 10:13 am |
      • Gunny

        " you can't judge a childs learning by testing". Please oh sage one, do tell us how you would. The Force? Testing isn't the problem. Teaching just enough to pass it, is. That statement exposes your own lack of a grasp of the problem. You seem to have plenty to say, yet you don't seem to be saying anything. When I read what you write, Charlie Brown's teacher comes to mind. Maybe that's what education was like for you.

        January 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
      • Mike

        Do your homework, Stevie. May I suggest reading The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch? Visit her website or watch her speeches on youtube. It will seriously open your eyes. Your point-by-point criticism of public schools and educator accountability is revealed for what it actually is. CRAP. You are simply regurgitating GOP talking points. Impressive how you can be so verbose on subjects of which you have simply zero understanding.

        January 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
      • Love teaching

        Steve...your last name MUST be McCarthy if I expect teachers to do something about co-workers. Red Scare!!! If they are truly good teachers, they are working their reat-ends off with their own students and their own subject matter rather than standing with a cup to the wall looking for bad teachers!

        January 28, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • raggedhand

      Steve-Illinois holds dated ideas that are common among the teacher-bashing set. He thinks that all public school teachers are like The Beaver's Miss Landers, sweet but clueless young things that sit up front and lecture to 25 fresh-faced, well-fed, self-disciplined, intact-family third graders who all sit at desks with their hands crossed. Just saying that makes me laugh.

      He thinks that teachers start school at 9 and go home at three and never look back. In reality, I start school at 7:30 and leave at 5:30 and then spend at least another 15 hours during the week and weekends grading and planning. Good lessons customized for your class don't come out of thin air. He also thinks that we have summers off, but doesn't realize than in every non-union state like mine the school year has expanded while the pay has not. My school year starts weeks before the kids go back and many days they're off, I'm working. I figure that after mandatory training that I must take on my own unpaid time and lesson planning, I end up with about 2 to 3 weeks of vacation time. After 15 years of his job, my husband gets more time off than I do.

      He talks of teachers being clueless about "real work" and that we don't know what it's like in the "real world" as if we're Martians. Every teacher has friends, relatives and spouses who live on the Planet Earth and are well acquainted with what "real work" is. Actually a lot of teachers, most in my high school, come to teaching from other professions. I started at age 40. In my area, a lot come after they retire from the military (and who all say teaching is harder, to a man). The teachers that start at 22 usually had jobs to get them through college. The upper class doesn't send their kids to be teachers, so most teachers come from lower and working class families. We know what the "real world" is like and we know what other professions are out there.

      He also assumes that the higher salaries on the east coast are the same salaries that the rest of the nation get. Teaching is not like being in the army. A teacher doesn't get the same pay no matter where they teach, unlike an army sergeant. The starting salary, by law, in Texas is 27K. There are a LOT of teachers in Texas who make that, especially in the rural areas.

      There are a million reasons why people go in to teaching, but in the end, there's only one reason they stay in teaching and that's because they feel that the low pay, the disrespect, the long hours are worth the importance of the mission.

      January 28, 2012 at 10:02 am |
      • Eric

        This is a very well thought response to an individual who puts little true thought into their own comments.

        January 28, 2012 at 10:12 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        FYI, Illinois isn't on the east coast. Now that you've explained how "grueling" a job it is, how does paying the same tenured teachers more money solve it? Take a gander at Illinois teacher salaries, (you can google it) and show me how higher paid teachers has produced better results?

        January 28, 2012 at 10:14 am |
      • Eric

        Steve, the argument about teachers earning money is highlighting the problem. How can you argue that we pay teachers too much at the same time you are arguing that better people need to do the job? Seems like such great, well compensated jobs would attract the best performers, would it not?

        January 28, 2012 at 10:24 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        Tenure keeps that from happening since the best prospects have to wait for the tenured teacher to retire for the position to open up. Sometimes the teacher has "retired" years before they notified anyone of their intent.

        January 28, 2012 at 10:41 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        P.S. Two years ago, an Ottawa,Il (pop 20,000) teacher retired making $125,000/yr. Retirement benefit $80,000. He taught drivers ed! Poor thing! Local elementary school district superintendent makes $110,000/yr, school has 150 students! Streator,Il just posted test scores for high school juniors in reading. 36% met or exceeded state standards. Headlines should be screaming 2 out of 3 flunked!

        January 28, 2012 at 10:46 am |
      • my2cents

        From 2006 to 2011, the district's student population declined 4,300 to 3,600 (-16%), however, the number of district employees increased from 590 to 720 (+22%), furthermore the district’s operating budget inceased from $83 million to $114.million (+37%). Education IS very important. As such, we should insure that our tax dollars are effectively managed and wisely spent. Looking at the numbers above, while certainly not the whole story, does give an impression that the district's financial situation is not being properly managed. All too often it seems, when a local school district is insolvent, the first battle cry is too "save" our schools and secure additional funds or tax revenue. While sometimes this is indeed required, it should not be done until, absolutely, the districts finances are fully scrutinized, hard decisions made, and the school board and district management put under a microscope and held accountable.

        I believe that most teachers honestly want to do a good job. I further believe that a great teacher is worth their weight in gold and should be compensated accordingly. But mostly I believe generally, and specifically regarding how we "do" education in this country, that our country has been walking down the wrong road for some time without a map. We need to tear down our existing system and totally rethink and rebuild from the ground up, taking into account, and balancing the needs, of all: society, the children, and the truly dedicated teaching professionals that, far too often these days, are unrecognized for the yeoman's work that they do day in and day out. It's about time that we all come together like rationally thinking adults and get this thing fixed. If not now, when?

        January 28, 2012 at 10:52 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        My Two Cents, that comment is spot on! According to your figures that is a 5-1 employee to student ratio, and the problem is the school doesn't have enough money!

        January 28, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  42. Oldeye

    The state of our economy dictates that more hard times are just around the corner.
    You have courage and I hope it holds up. Obama certainly is good at what he does; impress people
    with good speech. That's how he got elected and he may just get another 4 year term, yet.
    The bottom line deal is this; our government(and most of our middle class) are broke.
    Sure, there are rich folks who will never see it from our view. When you have to struggle to
    keep ends meet every month, that is the middle class blues. When we have to end this struggle,
    that's when we lose hope. So keep your struggles up. Maybe we will get lucky and end up with
    a savior(REMEMBER FDR). Until then, we need two things; belt tightening and more jobs for the masses.

    January 28, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • middledocmom

      Well said.

      January 28, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  43. middledocmom

    I think the focus has to return to the education that occurs at home. Parents need to not only value education but stop producing children if you don't have a 2-parent, financially stable environment with the time to help with learning to read initailly and then to help with school work. The drain on the school system is disfunctional and some energy must go toward smart kids who will have to pay taxes in the future.

    January 28, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  44. Angryblackman

    Modern day slavery. this country can not get enough of forcing people to give up their labor for no pay.

    January 28, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Steve- Illinois

      Keep up the drama! This "crisis that never should have happened" is a "crisis" that never was!

      January 28, 2012 at 8:06 am |
      • middledocmom

        Steve, closing your eyes won't make this go away.

        January 28, 2012 at 8:25 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        This particular school performs poorly! Throwing money at it does not make the same teachers better, just paid better!

        January 28, 2012 at 8:41 am |
      • middledocmom

        Why do you think that the teachers are poor teachers. You try teaching disadvantaged kids.

        January 28, 2012 at 8:45 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        Why don't you try doing my job? Why? Because it is not the job you have chosen! If I wanted to teach kids, disadvantaged, or not, I would be teaching them! The whine "Why don't you try doing it!" is nonsense!
        Teachers love to claim how they could make soooo much more money in the private sector, when the truth is, most teachers couldn't cut it in a system where they are actually held responsible for results, and pay is based on performance!

        January 28, 2012 at 8:57 am |
      • Eric

        Steve-o, you're simply wrong. You're narrow-minded, likely selfish, and wrong. I've been in education for ten years. It's a career that I enjoy, I have a skill set for. People like you couldn't do it. I spent some time in the non-education private sector and did it well, also, But the mindlessness of it drove me back to the classroom. I now teach in a highly respected, well-funded private school. I love it. I would never return to the public schools. I have been in a district like the one described in this article. Despite your point of view, which is weak because you have no idea what it is like, these schools (the teachers in them) are set up to fail at the job they're trying to perform. I'll wrap this up for the sake of netiquette......but to say it again, you're wrong. More importantly, you're what is wrong with America.

        January 28, 2012 at 10:07 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        I'm what's wrong with America, yet you state these schools are set up to fail, and money alone must be the only solution, since you offered no other ideas. I can say that I was very impressed by the innovative approach by our local high school when observing my nephew, a junior, doing his homework assignment, and the whole exercise consisted of coloring a picture! It wasn't an art class, it was U.S. history! Impressive!!!

        January 28, 2012 at 10:22 am |
      • gypsyboomer

        Steve-Illonios. No Steve, I don't think you could be a teacher. Being a teacher requires a certain amount of open-mindiness and reasonableness to deal with the children. And before you flame on, I was a successful professional engineer for 25 years before I voluntarily went into a classroom; while the pay was not primary (there are other things in life besides money), it is necessary to get the best qualification. I ask you if you remember when police were so badly paid – you get what you pay for.

        January 28, 2012 at 10:40 am |
      • Eric

        Yes, I see you base your entire perspective of what's wrong in the entire nation on your point of view of one experience. That's clear. Hence, my reference to your being narrow minded. In your example, that teacher should be doing much, much better things (assuming you have and are relaying the facts). You forget that there examples of poor performers in every field. I would argue that the proportion is equal in education and every other industry.

        January 28, 2012 at 10:43 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        I do not base my view on one experience, this was merely an example! You know what an example is don't you? One of those things you, most likely, use daily in teaching!

        January 28, 2012 at 11:07 am |
      • Get Real

        you don't need a degree to teach a loser to count.let their assistants do it.this person is a joke , lots of DEGREES and her students are still failures.

        January 28, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • middledocmom

      I agree, but it is not just the government not supporting students; just look at your neighbors. Even before the recession taxpayers didn't value educating the youth in their own comunity. Now the taxpayers are strapped financially and the number of needy children is increasing at an alarming rate that can't be supported. It's a complicated problem that needs a mult-prong solution. Underpaying teachers will solve nothing. Increasing standards will help a little. Something has to change at the family level. The teachers need kids that haven't been handicapped by their home-environment.

      January 28, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  45. Steve- Illinois

    This is nothing but a fluff story! Completely ignore the fact the teachers, and union, were aware there was zero chance they wouldn't get paid! Since the premise of the story is false, CNN is really reaching to fill it's content requirements!

    January 28, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • middledocmom

      Oh but they could have delayed payment and that is not a precedent that most unions would like established. The union took the high-road, plain and simple. Most teachers get into education because they actually like and care about children.

      January 28, 2012 at 8:24 am |
      • Steve- Illinois

        No different than when they chose to go on strike. They don't get paid while on strike, but when settled, the school year gets extended, end result, they lose no pay! The only ones harmed are the students! You can't make a "hero" out of someone for doing something they absolutely know they will get paid for!

        January 28, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • joe from Pa.

      Steve you are totally clueless,this area is poor and crime ridden,i would bet my life savings that you and people like you,wouldnt have the guts to even walk through this area once let alone work there,the problems they have are embedded in decades of poverty and a resistance to learning that has been handed down from previous generations...a mistrust of authority figures to lead them...so ...come on down and stand on Chester pike and spew your brand of stupidity..instead of hiding behind your keyboard and making assumptions based on your redneck views and conservative brainwashing.

      January 28, 2012 at 9:11 am |
      • Meg from PA

        Haha! Joe you are so right. Steve and many of the other posters should take a walkt through the streets of this school district, they wouldn't last two minutes. Steve, one question for you because you clearly don't know the whole story, how many weeks would you remain at your place of employment if your boss or employer told you you weren't going to get paid? How realistic would it be for you to actually stay in that job when you have bills to pay? I think the posted blog was not asking for a pity party, but saying exactly what "MyTwoCents" (who you agreed with) stated that there is a mismanagement of the money devoted to educational systems.

        January 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  46. middledocmom

    The union did the right thing to keep working without pay for awhile. You can't let down the children. I'll add that education starts at home though. The teachers can't make up for parent's who don't value education. Just popping out kids that you can't afford to feed and cloth doesn't help. If you don't have time to help educate your kids then you shouldn't have kids. Anyone can help their kids learn to read, spell, do elementary level math.

    January 28, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • rational

      Unless the parents are illiterate or have a poor basic math background. In these instances, the parents can provide no assistance because what their children are learning is beyond their own capabilities.

      January 28, 2012 at 8:06 am |
      • middledocmom

        Hmmm.... I relearned Algebra and Trig to help my teenager. I think that all but the truly learning-disabled parents can learn right along with their children at the elementary level. There is no excuse for most people and if they are truly not able to teach their children anything, they need a backup plan before popping out a bunch of kids. The point is that parents need to see education as part of their job as a parent and that has to be considered before reproducing.

        January 28, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  47. Jasie

    Administrators always cut the classroom teacher when cuts have to be made instead of the extra garbage that could be cut. They know classroom cuts will be political. There are a lot of add-ons that could be cut instead of the classroom.

    January 28, 2012 at 6:46 am |
    • ajbuff

      Agreed. Most teachers make barely enough to live on. Senior level teachers have benefits packages (primarily retirement) in many states that are unsustainable and outrageous. Administration too. And many systems are top heavy. Sadly, because those are the people who control the system, it will always be the affordable and hard working teachers at the bottom and mid-level, and the students, who suffer. Retirement should be eliminated before a single classroom teacher is let go. Upper level administrative and teacher pay should be reduced before a single teacher is let go. Statewide this would save so much money. Those who are in it for the wrong reasons will leave. And those who are left will be living in the same condition as the taxpayers who fund the school – and they are the ones who do things like those in the above story – decide to work for no pay. Good luck Mr. President! The unions have some true soul searching to do!

      January 28, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  48. whosurdaddy

    One woman got this whole thing right: "American education system is NOT about the children, its about the jobs of adults!" Nothing going to change this country is finished, When Obama asked Steve Job what can he do to get Apple move their factories back to US, Job said " those jobs are never comming back, because USA stop producing the workers they need." US population IQ drop every year, average American 50 pounds overweight, such population incapable of intense labor work. The most educated population in the world is a pure LIE, 85% of these high educated people got their degree in non-productive sectors such as business, law, art, social study and work as a useless clerks.
    If you go to silicon valley half of them are Asians with working visa, most Americans who work there are not doing any technical works!

    January 28, 2012 at 6:25 am |
    • ajbuff

      You seem to have trouble writing – with grammar and syntax. I guess you are your own Exhibit A?

      January 28, 2012 at 7:22 am |
      • rational

        But he or she is right. There are lots of news stories about how college graduates can't find jobs. But they do not tell us what those degrees are in. A degree in Fine Arts and a couple of bucks will buy you a cup of coffee. Same with Sociology, Women's Studies, Psychology, Voice, Venezuelan Studies (yes, I met one of these).

        I work in a technical field, and, yes, many of my colleagues are Chinese and Indian. These are hard-working, well-educated people with technical degrees.

        Steve Jobs was right.

        January 28, 2012 at 8:14 am |
      • middledocmom

        She's definitely right and has better writing skills than most Americans.

        January 28, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  49. HugeFlatShnoz

    I didn't even read the article. I came for the nose...

    January 28, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • middledocmom

      Bottom-feeders make rude comments like this in an attempt to appear better themselves.

      January 28, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  50. Jeff

    Lets say the average person works 2,000 a year and makes $65,000. I calculated that I work about 1,850 hours a year at a minimum. This did not take into account the week-long trip we take or other weekend trips where you work 24 hours a day to make sure students aren't being stupid. So if I work even just 90% as much time as a regular job why is it unreasonable to ask for 90% of the pay. That would be about 58,000. Is that completely unreasonable? People see the holidays and make uninformed assumptions, but when you look at the working numbers, it is a lot closer than people give teachers credit for.

    January 28, 2012 at 4:02 am |
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