Public Comment

Why the Bad Teacher Narrative Does Not Help Our Students, But Fixing our Budget Process Will

By Tracey Iglehart
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 06:53:00 PM

Please help to defend public education Thursday, March 4th by rallying at 2134 MLK Jr. Way beginning at 3:3opm. As educators across the state of California plan events on March 4th to defend public education, President Obama is proudly claiming that the firing of teachers at a Rhode Island High School is sound education reform and a necessary form of accountability. 

Consistently low performing public schools can be mandated to implement 1 of 4 plans to improve the school’s performance, including the firing of an entire staff and then hiring back no more than 50% of that staff.  

This is what the superintendent of Central Falls High School decided to do after teachers refused to agree to a plan that would impose the following conditions on them: add 25 minutes to the school day, require teachers to provide tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school, require teachers to eat lunch with students once a week, have teachers submit to more rigorous evaluations, attend weekly after-school planning sessions with other teachers and participate in two weeks of training in the summer. 

The teachers refused because these are conditions that should be negotiated rather than imposed on them, especially since they were being mandated to do all of this with very little compensation. They are being called things like “callous”, “lazy”, and “uncaring” because they want to retain control of their working conditions in a profession, which already demands much of them. 

All too often, in the conversation about our public schools, the quick fix that reformers turn to is blaming the teacher. But this bad teacher narrative is not only harmful to those of us in the business of educating; it is also harmful to those we hope will gain an education, from pre-K students all the way up to young and old adults. By demonizing teachers, we stop looking at the complex reasons that schools are failing, thus preventing us from coming up with real solutions.  

In Berkeley, our educators and public health officials have come together to create the 2020 Vision, which includes 9 goals to eliminate the achievement gap we have in our Berkeley schools. Combined, these goals look at issues of poor health; poverty; youth and parent engagement; family partnerships with schools and city services; engaging curriculum and intervention; evaluation and accountability; and early childhood programs to ensure kindergarten readiness.  

The passionate and devoted individuals that have spent countless hours drafting the 2020 Vision understand that although the teacher is a key ingredient in our students’ success, it does not come close to being the ONLY ingredient. And they know that in order for all members of our society to succeed in school, basic needs must be attended to first.  

Which is why California’s public education system’s success is tied so closely with the funding of our social services as well as our education services. We know that California’s budgetary process is broken and our 2/3 super majority to pass a budget must be changed to a simple majority.  

The following 10 tax changes would have little or no negative impact on economic growth and recovery. These revenues would provide long-term solutions for our state.  

1.) Enact an oil severance tax at 9.9 percent.  

2.) Eliminate secret corporate tax loopholes 

3.) Broaden sales tax base to include untaxed commodities 

4.) Reinstate top income tax brackets to 11percent 

5.) Close corporate property tax loopholes. 

6.) Maintain Vehicle License Fee at 1 percent. 

7.) Close useless corporate tax loopholes. 

8.) Increase tobacco and alcohol taxes. 

9.) Improve tax collections. 

10.) Extend ½-cent sales tax. 

California does not have a revenue problem, it has a priorities problem. If we truly hold public education in the high regard that will educate our next generation of workers, thinkers, problem solvers, and citizens, then we must begin to deal with our funding issues and be honest about what we are wiling to pay for.