Friday, February 24, 2017

Why teachers are quitting in Iowa

"There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race." — John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

I WAS standing in line in Dollar Tree two days ago waiting to pay for some note cards, when I noticed that the young woman behind me had a hand-basket full of purple, hinge-lidded, plastic boxes. 

Making idle conversation to help pass the time in line a little faster, I said, "Looks like you've got yourself a big project there."

"Oh these aren't for me," she said. "I'm a teacher. They're for my students."

"If you don't mind my asking, are you paying for these personally?" I asked.

"Yup," she replied. 

"I've heard teachers do quite a bit of that."

"Well," she answered, "the principal of our school is really good about trying to help out with extra money here and there so we can buy what we need, but if you need something right now, what are you going to do?" 

We're always hearing about teachers digging into to their own pockets to buy supplies. We hear about it with such frequency that I think we become inured and tune it out. 

Here was a perfect example standing next to me . . . a young woman trying to do her best for a class of kindergarteners in a small school in northeast Des Moines in a state whose governor, Terry Branstad, has proposed a paltry 1.1% increase in funding for education, which isn't an increase when inflation is factored in . . . a young woman who just had her collective bargaining rights for everything except base pay stripped away by the Iowa State Legislature, a young woman who happens to be pregnant, so you know her family expenses aren't going down.

February 11, prior to the vote on collective bargaining, Paul and I attended a legislative coffee with the our district's Republican State Senator and our two Republican State Representatives hosted by the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce. It wasn't so much a 'coffee' as it was a full-on protest. The room has a capacity of maybe 100; an estimated 500 people showed up, packing the room like sardines and filling the hallways in both directions. The vast majority of them were teachers and other public employees.

Seventy or 80 signed up to 'ask a question' and of those perhaps 20 were granted time to speak. One man stood at the microphone and, in tears, said that his daughter who is attending college to be a teacher, is now thinking of dropping out of the program based on the grim and unrewarding prospects of being a teacher in Iowa

Listening to him reminded me that I recently bumped into a lovely, now grown, woman I've known since she was five, who became an Iowa teacher. When I asked Michelle if she were still teaching, she told me, no, she'd quit because the budget cuts year after year after year had made her job so difficult that she just couldn't keep doing it anymore.

Below is a brief summary of recent events from WGEM TV.

Teachers in Iowa worried about collective bargaining bill impact

By Don Dwyer

February 22, 2017

DONNELLSON, IA (WGEM) — Teachers in southeast Iowa are worried about the future now that a new collective bargaining law has kicked in.

They say the new law could impact your child's education.

The new law limits the power of public sector unions by only allowing them to negotiate base pay.

Teachers at Central Lee High School in Donnellson say that's going to create a teacher shortage.

Governor Branstad signed the bill last week, meaning unions can't negotiate health insurance or supplemental pay.

The teachers say they could work in Illinois, Missouri, or Minnesota with better offers. 

"My only fear is that there will not be able to fill positions or you may have someone that will fill in for a position they are not totally qualified for because they can't find someone for that position," High School English teacher Anna Westermeyer said. "I was already suffering a teacher shortage and I am sure this will be another barrier for that." 

Tech teacher Hollie Weber says this will mean more competition with teachers moving around to different schools, something she's seen personally when she works in Des Moines.

"Whichever district was offering the incentive to work there, maybe an extra planning period, or better benefits, there wasn't a problem with people saying, 'I will work there.' There are three to four districts that are within driving distance of Central Lee," Weber said. 

Weber says the impact wouldn't be seen immediately but it would be seen more in the coming years. 

Iowa's largest state employees union has filed a lawsuit challenging the new law. 

1 comment:

  1. While our state of Washington still has it unions the legislature has not fully funded our schools in 7 years, which is a requirement of our state's constitution. The state in now in contempt of court and it is costing the taxpayer $100,000 per day for the duration of the charge of contempt, which to date, is 9 months and still counting. One or both houses of legislature have had a majority of Republicans during this period and our schools, teachers, and students pay the price.

    Our teacher too, must buy a lot of classroom supplies as well as the parents. The community every year pitches in by filling up backpack with school supplies for students whose families cannot afford them. It is so ridiculous and I find it dumbfounding. When I was a kid from K through 8th you went to school on the first day with nothing but your hands in your pockets. All supplies were at the school waiting for us when we got there. Nobody asked teachers to buy their own classroom supplies they were provided with taxpayer money and our education did not suffer from having the taxpayer paying for the education of the children. I graduated from public high school in 1957. Now, think of all the things my generation has accomplished with that public fully funded tax paid education for this country.