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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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