Monday, August 1, 2011

Pro-Reform Does Not Mean Anti-Teacher

Legendary teacher Annie Sullivan and ed reformer Geoffrey Canada.

Broad strokes work wonders as a rallying cry or to stir the emotions of a constituency, but they're less useful when it comes to accurately communicating the facts.

Such were the circumstances this weekend, as a few thousand teachers and other public school advocates descended upon the nation's capital to march in a "Save Our Schools" rally that aimed to, according to those in attendance, "put the 'public' back in 'public schools.'" Attendees were there to voice their opposition to a host of reforms—the growing emphasis on testing, No Child Left behind, attempts at teacher tenure reform, charter schools, and vouchers—just to name a few.

They were quick to paint a picture of an education reform movement as entirely anti-teacher, something that we here at the American Federation for Children know couldn't be farther from the truth. While there has been emphasis (especially recently) in some parts of the reform movement to tackle things like teacher tenure, merit pay and the so-called "dance of the lemons," we couldn't be stronger advocates for high-quality teachers, of which there are many. Some of us are the sons and daughters of public school teachers, and every single one of us recognizes that great teachers are some of the most important—and most under-appreciated—group of American workers that exist today.

But just that it isn't fair for them to generalize, neither should we. There are thousands of teachers across the country—both unionized and not—that are staunch advocates for reform agendas, including school choice. The best teachers among us are those who want the best for children no matter what, and they're the ones who support charters, vouchers, and tax credit programs aimed at low-income kids. While on a national level, we have been and will continue to be very critical of special interests that place more emphasis on their jobs than children, we acknowledge—and admire, applaud, and praise—the thousands of reformers who are not only supporting the cause but working in classrooms every day, too.

They're the real heroes in all of this.

Teachers aren't necessarily anti-reform and reformers aren't necessarily anti-teacher. Apples come in all shapes and sizes, but it's up to us to focus more on the people doing what's right if we really want to do what's best for kids.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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