I follow any number of hashtags on a daily basis, one of them being #iaedfuture, a hashtag about the future of education in Iowa. It’s populated with some incredible mind of education, and I’m often left in awe about the thinking, planning, and conversations that go on there. I’m writing this because of some of the posts over the last few weeks.
A little background: Our legislative session this year was not good to say the least for education. Democrats started the session pushing a 6% increase in state aid for schools, aiming high with good intentions. Republicans came back with 1.25% increase, not good, but you think aim low and go from there. The entire session was anegociation with Democrats dropping from 6% to 4% to 2.something% to finally 1.25% and $55 million dollars in one time money, money NOT to be used for ongoing expenses. That part was written into the compromise and the Legislature signed off on it, sending it to our governor for signature. Much to the chagrin of all involved, Governor Branstad voted out that one time money, leaving schools with an increase in state funding that won’t keep up with inflation. Now, there are several writers out there who’ve done a much better job than I writing about this. Scott McLeod (@mcleod) and Patrick Kearney (@kearneyiowa) have both done wonderful jobs writing about this ongoing mess. I would invite you to check out both Patrick’s blog and Scott’s blog for some great posts.
Now, with that all being said, Scott wrote in a recent blog titled “7 questions after Governor Branstad’s school funding veto” that we Midwesterns are “twice nice”:
Midwest educators are doubly nice, both because of the culture of where we live and because of our profession. We trust our representatives to represent us and then ever-so-quietly express our concerns when they don’t.
I agree with this entirely, being “Iowa nice” (NFWS language). We are a quiet group, a group that will make “lemonade out of lemons” that we are repeatedly handed.
However, Scott went on to write this:
We trust our representatives to represent us and then ever-so-quietly express our concerns when they don’t. We rely on the small handful of statewide organizations to speak for us rather than recognizing that our own individual voices are important (other than Patrick Kearney from Johnston, how many educators were writing regularly and publicly, expressing their concerns in formats longer than 140 characters?). Roark Horn, Executive Director of the School Administrators of Iowa, reminded us this week of the difference between reacting and responding, noting that “it is natural to want to react with the anger and frustration that we feel” as classroom teachers and school leaders. Roark is correct about our tone but I will also note that educators’ current policy advocacy is not working. Politics often requires a bolder voice than we educators are accustomed to exercising. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” At the recent ISTE conference, Pernille Ripp reminded us that we can’t stop fighting for what is right for kids. Will Iowa educators shrug their shoulders and roll over (yet again) or will they do what’s necessary to effectuate the changes that they’d like to see? Maybe it’s time to ask every educator in Iowa to pledge to vote in the next election? Will Iowans hold their representatives accountable next election year for their school funding decisions over the past few years?
This got my thoughts rolling about this blog, but what pushed me over the edge and got me writing was this blog by Ruth Culham (@writingthief Author of The Writing Thief) titled “A Passionate Plea”. In it, she says:
We have to become passionate, omnipresent advocates for students and teachers every day in big and little ways. Teachers have never relished the role as rebels, preferring to pour time and attention into the children they serve in so many positive ways. But, the conditions of teaching worsen every year and with the results of the most current election, they will erode even faster now.
Speak up with parents, with administrators, with policy makers.
People in powerful positions who have the authority to dictate the terms of funding and how those funds are used need to know what schools today are like.
I found out about our Goveror’s veto while on vacation (reason #5,255 to disconnect a bit) and for a brief moment felt deflated. Then I went kayaking near Peninsula State Park and felt better! 🙂 However, when I got home, wow, the outcry from people all over, and this story just becomes weirder. Today, we are being told to “be more efficient” by our governor and earlier, we were told to “stop whining” by one of our elected officials! What? When do we as teachers finally start looking at the record of those we voted into office? Yes, education IS that important, and until we start losing this “Midwest nice” thing we’ve got going on, we’ll always make do with less.
My grandmother was a teacher, my aunt was a teacher, my father was a teacher. I knew the nonsense that went on with bargaining, funding, how much time was spent outside of school doing school related things, and my father actually told me once not to get into education. Yet, here I am, 20+ years later, loving what I do in spite of what goes on in Des Moines. However, I have a voice (all be it a small one with the five people who read this) to use, and while I’m not the most eloquent writer, I do write. I will write because it’s what my profession needs, it’s what my students need, and it’s what I need.
I challenge you Iowa teachers: get your blog up and going, use the voice that social media gives us to make a stand, to create a statement. And don’t stop. Just like we tell our students, just write. Write about your classroom, your co-workers, your school. Bring your classroom out to the public so we ALL can see the damage that is being done. I challenge you to make your voice heard. If you do it and I do it, that’s two. Let a few more join in and suddenly, we have something.
I will say this as well, until we stop thinking about “best for the party (Democrat or Republican) and start thinking “best for Iowa” all the writing and stories and attention will mean diddly squat. If we don’t put that aside and do what’s best for Iowa, this last year will seem like a dream.