After 25 years of teaching in some of the hardest and most challenging schools and situations in all of America, the State of Tennessee has determined my experience and my advance degrees mean nothing. Governor Bill Haslam and his appointed henchman, Commissioner Huffman, have determined that teachers who have a Doctorate and/or a Masters degree should not get paid for the advanced education. In making this determination, the governor is saying that teachers who go back to school and become experts in their field should not be compensated for their effort or their abilities to be school leaders and change agents in their communities. Commissioner Huffman’s plan reduces a 5-tier pay scale to a 2-tier pay scale: BA/BS and Masters. Educators who have earned multiple advanced degrees, Eds, or Phd will not be compensated. He says there is no evidence that teachers with all that extra knowledge translates into successful students and that advanced degrees do not increase student performance and states should not pay for teachers to become more educated so they can teach their students new pathways to success.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact American public schools are putting out the best trained students who do not live in poverty. American test data has not fallen for students who come from economic stable families.
The Republican led legislature in Tennessee, as it is in other conservative states, have reduced teacher pay and status in an effort to demean the profession and reduce public schools to the bone heap. This is a conscious effort led by people who want to see the end of public education. This is a conscious effort led by people who want to return America to a time of two classes rich and poor and attacking public school teachers and administrators is a way to diminish their performance and their value.
Conservative politicians all over the country have shown their intent: eliminate public schools and the expense of educating the nation’s children. They want the education of children to be a personal responsibility of all parents no matter what the economic status of the family.
The Republican Party has been attacking public education for the last 50 years ever since they saw thousands upon thousands of young intelligent teenagers and college students march in the streets for freedom and the end of the Viet Nam War.
Conservatives such as the Utah State Senator who wants to eliminate mandatory schooling want one thing, they want America to become a feudal Theocracy much like the Taliban wants Afghanistan to return to 1000 CE.
The goal of the Republican Party in many parts of the country is to help make as many people live in poverty as they can. They see intelligent people as a threat to their power and wealth. They see and educated society as the enemy and are fighting to make as many people they can as dumb as they can because dumb people do not question, do not think, do not seek more.
Uneducated people are sheep and the conservatives of the Republican Party — like the Taliban of Afghanistan — know this and use Bible belt Christianity to control the thinking of some of the neediest Americans.
Governor Haslam has been rated one of the least effective Governors in America and some have compared him to Florida’s Scott and Wisconsin’s Walker. His attack on public schools falls into line with other radical right wing state leaders all across the south.
Dedicating a person’s life to the education of children is no easy task. Night school, after school projects, countless hours of reading and writings, and the financial obligation of getting an advanced degree are all realities for teachers who try to be the best educators they can be.
Now the State of Tennessee wants to diminish my career by saying all that time, effort and money spent on my advanced degrees did not make me a better teacher and did not make a difference in the lives of the students I have taught.
I have taught in two states, five districts and 8 different schools and in every situation the teachers with advanced degrees have all been the academic leaders of every school or district. They are the teachers who sit on committees, teach other teachers and run the schools. Teachers with advanced degrees are the teachers who go to conferences and learn new techniques to teach and ever growing poverty stricken population.
How much is the knowledge of reading worth? You cannot put a price tag on the knowledge I impart to my students. Governor Haslam has never wanted for anything. He has never suffered middle of the night hunger pains and he’s fortunate enough that he has never wondered where his children’s next meal will come from. The governor and his children were born millionaires, and the struggles of working families or the poor are foreign to him. He now wants to diminish my job and my career so he can help the radical right turn Tennessee into a poverty-stricken theocracy.