An Open Letter to WA State Representative Liz Pike

Dear Ms. Pike,

Your “open letter to public educators” is an extended contradiction and a wild display of ignorance.

So let me get this straight. You claim that you “encourage folks to choose a job they love,” yet you say you “chose to work a career in private sector business so that [you] could be one of those tax payers who funds [teachers’] salaries and benefits as a state employee in a local school district.”  Really?  That’s why you “chose” your career–to fund teachers’ salaries and benefits? How generous of you!  How would your boss feel about this statement (which, by the way, doesn’t even make sense), though?  And even if you hadn’t chosen to work in the private sector, wouldn’t you still be a taxpayer?  I’m just confused.

Then you say that if you could do it all over again, you’d choose to become a teacher “so that [you] too could enjoy summertime off with [your] children, spring break vacations, christmas break vacations, paid holidays, a generous pension and health insurance benefits.”  Really?  You’d become an educator not so you could inspire children and do your part to change our society for the better, but so you could have summers and holidays off? (By the way, the “C” in Christmas should be capitalized.) Anyway, I’m glad, for the sake of our children, that you chose the private sector. This statement alone shows your deep-seated resentment of teachers, the shallowness of your priorities, and the complete lack of understanding you have about what it takes to be a teacher.  You must be really unhappy with your career choice if you’d  go back in time and abandon it in favor of a job you clearly know nothing about and have no respect for.

You thank teachers for their service to schools, and then you deride the very public school system in which they work, saying it “continues to plummet when compared to worldwide education standards.” You bash the professional unions to which teachers belong, insisting that those unions “only care about the adults in the system.” You’re kidding, right? Please remember that unions are made up of teachers.  To suggest that teachers only care about themselves is an offensive generalization—a stereotype, even—that is just as offensive as calling all politicians corrupt.  (Does that offend you?)  Please, save the false praise you throw into this letter; it is disingenuous and insulting.

You suggest that teachers who are “dissatisfied” with their pay and benefits look elsewhere for employment so that “someone who is inspired to greatness can take their place in the classroom.”  Are you suggesting that a teacher who seeks fair pay for his work is somehow uninspired in his job?  How are the two connected?  Further, are you suggesting that private sector workers don’t seek pay increases, better benefits, or other things that are in their and their families’ best interest?

You hope that teachers will inspire their students to “reach their full intellectual potential and learn the value of true leadership in our community.”  If “true leadership in our community” is what you feel you demonstrate in your role as an elected official, perhaps you should begin by respecting public education, which is a cornerstone of our democratic society and the heart of our communities, instead of vilifying those who work so hard to improve it.

I very much agree that “our children deserve an exceptional and inspired teacher in every classroom.” But how can you expect exceptional and inspired teachers to enter the profession when people like you publicly—and viciously—criticize it?

I’m a proud teacher and a proud union member.  I’m passionate about the children and the subject matter I teach, and my colleagues, who are also proud teachers and union members, are equally passionate.  I’m disgusted by the ignorance your post exudes and the complete disregard you have for the institution of public education and the devoted teachers who do their jobs each day even when they’re faced with issues (like poverty, inequality, reformers who know nothing about education, and corporations that have a financial interest in our schools and their students) that threaten students’ ability to succeed.

Please stop painting teachers as being greedy and uninspired.  Instead, please help fix the problems facing public education in an effort to support those who work their hardest each and every day to improve it.

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19 Comments

Filed under Letters, Reform

19 responses to “An Open Letter to WA State Representative Liz Pike

  1. Theodore B. Raihl

    Amen!

    But you neglected to point out to Rep. Pike that most school employees do not enjoy “summertime off with [your] children, spring break vacations, christmas break vacations, paid holidays.”

    I do not receive any paid holidays as a teacher. I did when I was a box boy in a grocery store at age 15, and as a temporary worker 25 years ago, but not as a professional educator with a Master’s degree.

    Neither are any of the holidays breaks “vacations” in the sense that Rep. Pike clearly intends. I am paid to teach 180 days of school, and these paid teaching days do not include Winter break, Spring Break, Summer Break, of any other “vacations.”

    As for summer “vacation,” I am teaching summer school so I can put new tires on my car and take my children on a summer trip (to a couple National Parks).

    And as for pay, let’s compare teachers and legislators, shall we? Beginning teacher salary (0 years of experience, Bachelor’s degree): $33, 401 for 180 days of work. Legislator salary: $42, 106 for 90-100 days of work. To compare apple to apples, a starting teacher earns $185.56 per day. A legislator earns: $421.06-$467.67 per day, depending on the length of the session. Legislators are rewarded pretty handsomely, especially when one factors in their pension and benefits.

    Check your facts, Rep. Pike.

  2. Ronnie

    Well said, Ted!

  3. Carmen

    Agreed with Theodore! I don’t know of any teacher who receives paid vacations or holidays. I have been teaching for 18 years and I never have.

  4. Vantucky Teacher

    In Response to Ms. Pike’s Open Letter to Public Educators:

    Ms. Pike,

    I am an educator in your district and to say that I am disappointed in your “Open Letter to Public Educators” would be a gross understatement. I am LIVID. I care a great deal about respect and dignity in my profession – both of which you aggressively stripped educators of in your writing.
    I would like you to know that I am embarrassed and angry to have you represent me for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which includes the demonstration that you are purposefully and proudly ignorant on the facts surrounding educator contracts, work load/responsibility and a person’s purpose in choosing teaching as a career. Shame on you.
    The taxpayers in your district deserve far better than you and I will spend both my money and my time (and according to you I have plenty of both on hand) to ensure that you are never elected to another position in my community.
    The condescension and arrogance your letter displayed are taken as a personal offense and you have made many enemies in your district this week.

    Sincerely,
    An outraged voter, taxpayer and educator in the 18th district.

  5. Valerie

    Thank you for standing up for the integrity and hard work of teachers.

  6. Being a spouse of a Washington State teacher, I am thankful for your response. Posted on Facebook now as well.

  7. Mitch

    I always love the comment “continues to plummet when compared to worldwide education standards.” that’s because we take every child into school no matter what and teach them. In many other countries they weed the kids out and only the “smart” ones continue. As for benefits I would be glad to switch with Rep. Pike, let her see just how “great” we have it compared to her.

  8. Allen

    Liz, way to go on the road to make friends and all that stuff. I’m sure from the above comments they all gave you a grade of “F”. Which is correct. So why not just come out and explain why you hate teachers?
    Is it because most teachers won’t vote for a member of the GOP? Yes, that same party that is trying to destroy all unions. And union members, or most union members will not vote for anyone who is trying to destroy their way of making a living. Doesn’t matter if it’s teachers or truck drivers, very few people will vote for someone who wants to take away their wages and benefits.

    Why can’t the GOP be honest, and admit that it is the voters fault, not the teachers or the teachers union? Who sits down at the table and talks to the unions about the contracts the teachers want? Do you even know who that is Liz?
    FYI, it’s the school board, and we the people Liz, yes you and me, vote for the school board. The school board does the hiring and firing of personal in the school district.
    I could continue, but if you haven’t caught the message so far, you never will. Just keep following your party line and hopefully you will lose your next election.

    • Excellent rebuttals! I will continue to do everything I can to assist in Ms. Pike’s defeat in the next election.

      Another outraged voter, taxpayer, and classified employee (para-educator) from the 18th district

  9. We have a GOP Senator in our district who is on the same wavelength as Liz Pike. Scary! Mostly self-serving and all full of themselves as do-gooder, champions of education.
    Your letter couldn’t have been better written. Here is my pep-talk to teachers who feel beaten down.
    I became a teacher at 35. After working minimum wage jobs since a teen leading to jobs in grocery stores and dental office manager and assistant, I chose a career that I would give back to society and make the world a better place to live. After many hard years juggling college, raising a family and working full time, I finally graduated top of my class in science and elementary education.
    I am proud to say I have been a teacher for twenty years. Compared to other jobs it is, if not the most difficult job today with stress levels that compare to air-traffic controllers, emergency room staff and police officers. I almost didn’t survive my first five years.
    I agree with an above comment, we are the union, being a teacher unites us. Simple truth, if we were treated better we more than likely wouldn’t need one. Sad reality is without our union we would have nothing with the likes of Liz Pikes in office. Contrary to the belief unions protect bad teachers, they really attempt to protect us from LIz Pikes. Once in awhile Liz Pikes do something stupid, get frustrated, write a dumb article and rear their heads to show their true colors. She is just a small sample of the thinking out there.
    Finally, I like most everyone in the profession or thinking about a future in the profession, encourage you to stay with it because we know we make a difference in our students lives. We give our all every day no matter our differences, our energy level or what the Liz Pikes of the world say. Teachers and public education are the foundation of democracy. We create hope for a future and opportunity to make the world a better place to live.

    • Allen

      Lisa, people like Liz Pike and other union haters will never understand exactly how a union works. And to be honest, there is more good in unions than any bad. Do union’s protect the bad member, well the answer is: Most of the time, yes they do.
      However not all the times. I have been a union member for over 45 years, and am drawing a nice pension, and health care with my retirement. I worked for over 32 yrs. to be able to retired with a decent pension.
      And then comes along the Liz Pikes of the world, complaining about unions, how people are lazy, etc. etc. I have never seen a lazy union member in my union, for the main reason is the way our contract is written with the contractors who utilize our knowledge and work habits.

      Without teachers, in school from K thru 12, and higher education, or weather it is in trade schools, the teachers are a very important part of our lives. But most of the GOP cannot understand that. I guess they must have hated their teachers when they were in school.

      If the business owners were fair people, there would not be a need for unions. But we know there is a demand, and yes, a growing demand for the unions. That is one thing the GOP hates to hear, a growing demand. And the reason is real simple, people have seen how, not only themselves, but neighbors, relatives, family members, have been treated since the economy crashed.

      And to all of you teachers and educators, hang in there, better times will be coming, and the Liz Pikes will fall to the roadside, as the has been’s who have outlived their usefulness. And I am not demeaning her, just trying to show where she is wrong. She really does need to wake up and see what is going on.

  10. Kim Hatzenbeler

    “Seek first to understand, then be understood” Stephen R. Covey

    All politicians should read this: https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits-habit5.php

  11. Ann

    1. My husband has worked at the same job in the private sector for the past fifteen years, and has received a cost of living increase every year with the exception of the past two. It isn’t a lot, and certainly doesn’t mach the actual rises in the *true* cost of living, but it does happen.

    2. Wow – blame the unions? Hard to believe it’s possible to think that having employee protections in an age where America is run by corporations instead of people is a bad idea. I guess you can call me crazy there! I realize that’s a simplified view on my part, but equally simple to say that our education problems are due to union protection of school employees? I think so. We have seen how state and federal governments abuse systems – we see it all around us. I hold no grudge against anyone wanting protection from the organized umbrella of a union. With all the extra time teachers spend during evenings and weekends on our students NOW, I’d hate to think how much worse our education system COULD be if they also had to spend time fighting for simple employment rights. The union does that for them so that they can focus on their jobs!

    3. Where were the emergency funds that should have helped us when our economy took a “downturn” back in 2008? All I really saw were continued school funding cuts and cuts to the program that funds my severely disabled son’s quality of life. Now adults with disabilities, some of who have no other income than SSI, no longer have assistance with eye prescriptions, dental care, therapies, medical prescriptions, and many durable medical supplies. Wow – that seems like an emergency to me? Who got that *emergency funding* instead?

  12. Her comments are a symptom of everything wrong with what passes as “discourse” in our society today.

    Sure, unions are a problem some places. I guarantee they are not the problem everywhere.

    Sure, some teachers complain about not being paid enough. I guarantee not every teacher complains about this.

    Her “position” refuses to consider gray areas–which is where reality resides. Instead of gray, it is all black and white, generalization and absolutes.

    Worse, though, is the condescending tone. That just makes me sad for her as a human being.

    I’m a mid-career teacher. Honestly, I’m okay with my pay, benefits, etc. Would I like to make more? Absolutely, but I recognize the challenges of our revenue system. Do I think that, systemically, our pay system recruits, retains, and promotes the best and brightest? No way. To apply a Pikesian overgeneralization/absolutism, our pay system retains only the martyrs and the ones unqualified for anything else. Society wants the martyrs, who by definition give of themselves to do the work others will not. We praise the martyrs, the selfless, as we should. But in my community alone there are about 500 certificated teachers, which means that the occupation “teacher” is one of the most populous job titles. Martyrs are in short supply in a real world economy, and people like Pike don’t want a compromise, which would be a dedicated, creative professional whose selflessness is balanced by the drive to achieve all the other dreams we all aspire toward: supporting a family, establishing a home, saving for the future.

    The “just be happy you have a job” argument (so often lobbed against “complaining teachers”) is a non-argument as well, and is a cop out employed only by people incapable for reasonable discourse.

    Which brings me full circle. Discourse. I’d like to hear discourse, including voices from the likes of Ms. Pike, wherein solutions are crafted and ideas are coaxes to evolve rather than simply defended. Real “step one, step two, step three” solutions with timelines and action steps, not empty rhetoric about teachers’ unions and whiny educators. If she believes paying teachers less or abolishing unions is the way to improve schools, wonderful, connect the dots for me. How will point A lead to point X, Y or Z? That’s what I really want to hear, and whether GOP or Dem, when I hear real steps, I will listen, and maybe even agree…. even if it wasn’t the idea I had in mind originally.

  13. Doesn’t Liz get paid 42k to work Jan to April….?

  14. Danielle

    Her facebook rant is going viral: http://bit.ly/11Iu852

  15. Pete Forgey

    Isn’t it interesting that she is now going to have a “town hall” meeting on July 5, when many people are going to be on an extended holiday through the weekend? Why doesn’t she have a “town hall” the next week when more people will be home and able to attend? On the other hand, will she actually answer questions about her “open letter to educators”, or will she do what many politicians do, avoid answering them and/or shorten the meeting if the questions persist or get too hot when she wants them to stop?

  16. rd

    According to stats I have seen Wa. was about 5th from the top with the most cuts to education in the last 5 years yet we have held our own in various standardized test scores. Not sure what that proves but maybe Legislator Pike should be thanking teachers not trashing them. I don’t think Republican legislators exactly covered themselves in glory during the last session.

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