"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Just Say NO to a Presidential Endorsement

The NEA Representative Assembly begins on July 2 in Chicago. At issue is an early endorsement of a presidential candidate.

This presidential election season, however, offers nothing for the Public Schools of America.

A Republican administration (with Democratic help) gave us No Child Left Behind, which punishes schools and school systems for the social failings of the Federal and State governments.

A Democratic administration has given us Race to the Top. Republicans who will use nearly anything to bash the current president are generally quiet about this since it is a plan which takes the worst aspects of No Child Left Behind and expands them.

An article in the Wall Street Journal indicates that NEA might defer their endorsement of President Obama as a way of expressing displeasure. The Obama administration has crushed public education around the country by encouraging practices, through Race to the Top, which have no basis in research...charter schools and teacher evaluations based on test scores, for example.

To be sure, Republicans have joined in the bloodbath. Republican Governors of state after state (Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, Idaho...) and their Republican legislatures have stripped teachers of collective bargaining rights, pensions, and other protections. They have pressed a coordinated attack on teachers by holding up "public sector" workers as the bad guys in today's economy, as if teachers, fire fighters and police officers are the ones responsible for the current economic conditions of the country. Redefining the country's economic problems as "overpaid teachers and budget busting pensions" rather than deregulated banking and out of control financial corporations was easy given the amount of money Wall Street has sunk into political campaigns.

NEA, however, will most certainly eventually endorse President Obama...who, along with his Secretary of Education, cheered when an entire staff at a high poverty high school in Rhode Island was fired.

I've been a strong supporter of my local teachers association, the Indiana State Teachers Association and the NEA for the last 35 years, but I won't support them in this political endorsement. There are no candidates currently running who support public education. The Billionaire's Club -- the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Koch brothers -- and their mouthpieces -- the Rhees and the Kleins -- who are leading the charge to privatize Public Education have no vocal opponent in either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.

At this point in time it's a choice of voting for the death of public education by hanging or the death of public education by lethal injection. There's no difference...no matter who the NEA endorses. Neither party has earned the endorsement of public school teachers. Both Democrats and Republicans are working as hard as they can to deprofessionalize teachers, privatize public education and give their billionaire contributors access to public education coffers...

I urge the NEA not to endorse anyone...unless someone comes along who supports public education. As an individual, I will vote for the candidate who, on other issues, most closely fits my beliefs about where the United States should go as a nation, but as an educator I can't, and won't, support any of them.



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