Prolonged Attack on Public Education and Unions Leaves Teaching Profession Woeful

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Common Dreams

Prolonged Attack on Public Education and Unions Leaves Teaching Profession Woeful

by
Common Dreams staff

Teachers are less satisfied with their jobs than they have been in decades, according to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. Given the content contained in much of the current rhetoric about public education and the solution being offered by corporate reformers, is it any wonder? (File)

Teachers are more dissatisfied with their jobs than they have been in decades, according to MetLife's latest Survey of the American Teacher report. Based on a survey of public school teachers, parents and students, the report is the first large-scale national attempt to fully account for the impact that a recessionary economy and a vicious public campaign against public school teachers and their unions has had on the profession.

In the report, teachers describe a situation where "cuts to school budgets have lead to diminished programs and services" at at a time when "students and their families are demonstrating increased needs."

Nearly three in ten (28 percent) teachers indicate that there have been reductions or eliminations of health or social service programs in their schools in the past year. In addition, 64 percent of teachers report an increase in the number of students and families requiring health and social support services and 35 percent say the number of students coming to school hungry has increased.

The New York Times reports:

Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Washington, said the push for evaluations, punctuated by a national movement to curb the power of unions, had fostered an unsettling cultural shift.

“It’s easy to see why teachers feel put upon, when you consider the rhetoric around the need to measure their effectiveness — just as it’s easy to see why they would internalize it as a perception that teachers are generally ineffective, even if it’s not what the debate is about at all,” Ms. Jacobs said.

More than 75 percent of the teachers surveyed said the schools where they teach had undergone budget cuts last year, and about as many of them said the cuts included layoffs — of teachers and others, like school aides and counselors. Roughly one in three teachers said their schools lost arts, music and foreign language programs. A similar proportion noted that technology and materials used in the schools had not been kept up to date to meet students’ needs.

“Often, we hear how important teachers are. But this survey tells us what teachers themselves are thinking, and it’s very sobering,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in a statement. “Teachers are telling us they have the lowest level of job satisfaction in more than two decades and that a growing number are planning to leave the profession.”

"For the most part, the only organized entity that pushes back against right-wing ideas about education are teacher’s unions. So if you take them down a notch in the eyes of the public, you have more opportunity to get policies through like vouchers and charter schools and all the rest." - David Dayen, FDL

“U.S. teachers are frustrated with unrelenting cuts in budgets, elimination of arts and after-school programs, larger class sizes, and accountability systems that over-rely on student test scores,” she said. “This should call into question the obsession with cutting funding for public education and health and family services children and parents rely on.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel called the results “shocking,” and attributed the results “in part, to the unconscionable cuts" to school budgets in recent years, including cuts to early childhood education, books and technology, and elimination of of key programs and classes, such as history, art, physical education and music.

“Policy makers’ actions have real consequences, and those are being felt in classrooms across the country," Van Roekel said in a press statement. "We encourage parents and community leaders to join us and speak up against the devastating impact of budget cuts and instead demand that students have the resources they need to succeed.”

David Dayen, writing at FireDogLake, asks "How public education in America is enhanced by making teachers feel like shit?" He answers his own question by acknowledging that hurting teachers' feelings or damaging their sense of worth is hardly the reason behind the corporate education reform movement -- exemplified by people like former DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

...the real goal of this right-wing education policy isn’t solely to humiliate teachers as much as it is to humiliate unions. They want to build a narrative of union bosses protecting “bad” teachers and engaging in corruption at the expense of kids. For the most part, the only organized entity that pushes back against right-wing ideas about education are teacher’s unions. So if you take them down a notch in the eyes of the public, you have more opportunity to get policies through like vouchers and charter schools and all the rest.

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