Three years ago, my fellow conservatives and I realized that the teacher’s union American Federation of Teachers (AFT), was heavily involved in the off-year election of the local school board members. Because the school board elections are non-partisan, the two-to-one Republican majority of voters could not identify which candidates on the ballot were conservatives. The result was that most of the seven school board members were effectively chosen by the union. This was very handy for them when it came to contract negotiations. The larger effect, of course, was an average public school environment that operated as its own ecosphere, conveniently isolated from the rapidly-evolving consumer demand.
So in 2009, those of us in the local Republican Party leadership did our homework, identifying conservative, business-minded candidates, and promoting them to the voting public. The newly well-informed citizens have voted for the recommended conservative slate two elections in a row now. Among other notable advances, the regenerated school board and enlightened new superintendent have granted a Science-Technology-Engineering-Math (STEM) charter school, developed a voucher system for attending private schools, instituted merit pay, and invited the formerly unwelcome Boy Scouts back in.
In my role as Chairman of the local Republican Party, I sometimes receive push back from a staid teacher who is unappreciative of our upsetting the comfortable routine that they had going for so long. Below is a recent example that I found particularly illuminating. This was in response to a communication from me calling out the AFT and the ACLU who have descended on our school district over the past year with campaigns and law suits to stop vouchers and to keep the union supply of campaign money flowing. The letter here has been significantly edited to fit the article. My response follows.
Dear Mr. Baisley,
I appreciate your time in reading this. I have been an award winning teacher for 7 years and a teacher for 15 years. We were the top performing district in the state with great cohesiveness, strong administration, and great relationships between teachers, administration, and the school board a mere five years ago.
After working both in the business world and as a teacher, I firmly believe that the effort, devotion, unselfish nature, and time that teachers give is unequaled by private enterprise. The fact of the matter is that education is not a business- it is one that thrives based upon passion, caring, collaboration, and the continual strive to improve to benefit children. The approach of creating a business atmosphere in education will eliminate many of those key elements for success. It is a mistake Mr. Baisley and it is impacting my very own children. Teachers are advocating currently for their own kids as much as the students they teach at this point. That is because they understand the key elements for success in schools.
I did not crack the $30,000 salary mark as an educator with a Masters degree until my fourth year of teaching, while my fellow graduate friends were cracking the $100,000 mark. I was Pre-med in college, smarter than most of my peers, yet I chose to be an educator after volunteering in classrooms in Boulder. I felt needed, but I guess I was just stupid.
Mr. Baisley, the outside influence that has impacted this district is the work of the GOP taking over at a local level. Politics should be left at the door when deciding on a fate as important as this one, and their should be a balanced approach without condescending attitudes of people who have never taught in a classroom. I have not felt valued for my noble goals at all in any way by our school board, our community, our voters, or the political agenda regarding schools in [our county]. And I understand after reading your email why I have felt that way. The one thing people really miss in society is this: Just because you once attended school does not give you any expertise on education. I do not pretend to be an expert in any ventures except for the ones in which I am involved. Unfortunately, I no longer have a voice in education. I have an offer on the table from [an] Energy Company to double my salary immediately if I go full-time. Why should I continue to teach Mr. Baisley? I have until June 15th to decide. Thank you for your time.
I greatly appreciate your respectful and informative communication. I hope that you will give my response due consideration.
First of all, I want to thank you for your service to our county and its students. I am one who values education as a member of the Board of Trustees
for my own college alma mater
and as one who reveres the life-changing education that I received from my own incredible high school
from some forty years ago. I hope that you will benefit from my perspective here.
First, the political nature of the school board did not begin with the involvement of the GOP. Rather, the GOP involvement was a natural and appropriate response to the political one-sidedness that had been driven for many years from the left at all levels. For a bit of empirical evidence, compare the ratio of party registration of the educators with the party registration of the voters.
The outside interests are the AFT and the ACLU; not the GOP. An estimated 70%, or $900,000 of our county teacher’s union dues is sent to the national office of the AFT, which is primary used to fund the Democratic Party. The ACLU flew in to launch its lawsuit against the community’s desire to have a voucher program. The GOP is made up of local citizens who wish for our school system to reflect our values.
The most powerful message from your note to me is the omission of the words parent or customer in your desire to return to a monopolized culture of superciliousness. I believe it when you describe the previous environment as having “great cohesiveness, strong administration, and great relationships between teachers, administration, and the school board.” But We The People are the customers.
A strong majority of the approximate 1.5 million people who will receive a link to this article will disagree with you that the efforts of teachers is unequaled by private industry workers. In fact, if the new school board does only one thing, I would hope that it would be to add a business sense to our school district of rushing to give the customer (the parents and the tax-paying voters) what they want. As an example, the largest local employer maintains the motto, “We never forget who we’re working for.” Imagine preparing students to thrive in that market of free enterprise.
Thank you for your time.