GRESHAM — Teachers in the Gresham-Barlow School District are on strike this morning after talks between the district administration and the teachers union broke off with no resolution last night. The strike was announced on a teachers union website. Salary and preparation-time issues continue to separate the sides…. The union has given up on demands for cost-of-living increases and step increases for the first year, but it is still seeking to keep intact step increases in the second year. The district argues that this will lead to layoffs and larger classes. The district wants to reduce teacher preparation time, and the two sides have been exchanging proposals, coming closer to agreement on this issue, an emotional trigger for the teacher.
I realize that an examination of a teachers strike in suburban Portland, OR, is of little interest to the vast majority of my readers. Except that the strike in the Gresham-Barlow School District is a harbinger of a much bigger problem. We claim to revere education, yet we despise teachers, and we refuse to adequately fund learning environments that could prepare our children for the future.
For years, our schools have been forced to do more with less. Cuts is school budgets have resulted in increased class sizes, fewer extracurricular activities, and less individualized attention for our children. Every school year brings a new variation on the same theme- cut, cut, cut. Less money forces school districts to cut teaching jobs, which makes a job that’s difficult under the best of circumstances into one that’s virtually impossible to do effectively.
And people wonder why I refuse to go back into teaching? Really?? Why would I put myself into a career in which I’d have to fear for my job every 12 months? Why would I want a career that each and every years expects me to do more with less without complaint? Why would I want a career in which the workload is ratcheted up each and every year without anything even faintly resembling a corresponding in compensation?
How long before our schools are reduced to publicly-funded day care centers, child warehouses with the resources to do little save for baby-sitting children? And how long before we recognize that our own ignorance, penury, and refusal to accept responsibility is why our educational system is what it is?
Our future and that of our children is very likely proportional to our commitment to educating our children and preparing them for the future. Given our collective economic commitment to education, it’s difficult not to believe that our future is looking bleak.
How do Americans expect their children to be able to compete in an increasingly globalized economy when they refuse to pay to educate them? The Gresham-Barlow teachers strike can be, and should be, seen as a glimpse into our future.
Is that the America we want?