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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Attacking Teacher Unions

The Oklahoma legislature, a group that seeks new ways to embarrass those of us who live here, is getting ready to pass a law denying teachers in the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) the right to have their union dues deducted from their paychecks.
This is the latest assault on teachers' Constitutional right to organize and collectively bargain for our salaries and working conditions.  Pure and simple, it is an assault on our due process rights and freedoms, but it allows the politicians a group on which to lay blame.

Politicos of both parties love to praise teachers who are involved in educating and raising the coming generations of workers and citizens, except when it comes to paying the bill for our efforts.  We provide for them both a means of appearing compassionate, and a ready scapegoat when the system they have created fails to deliver the results they demand. 

After all, they cannot blame the students for what they see as the "failure" of public education, that would be cruel.  They cannot blame the parents, that would be political suicide. They cannot blame themselves, that would be an admission of their own failure.  So they blame the teachers, specifically the teacher unions, because that gives them the out they so desperately seek. 

Public education in Oklahoma has been underfunded for years. The only thing worse than education funding is the funding of social services in our state.  As a result, our prisons are overflowing, a quarter or more of our children grow up in poverty, and we fall further and further behind states that have have done a better job of their social funding.

There is now a growing teacher shortage in our state. School districts have had to try to recruit teachers from foreign lands, use Teach for America instructors just out of college (most of whom will remain in Oklahoma only two years before seeking better jobs in other states), or give "emergency" certifications to warm bodies to try and educate struggling students.

And people wonder why this is so.


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