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Monday, January 14, 2019

Opinion: Treat Our Teachers and Public Education with Respect

From The Charleston Gazette-Mail

By Fred Albert
January 9, 2019

"Education is the foundation for everything else that follows a person in life. Let’s give it the respect it deserves."

Imagine a scenario in which the principal of River View High School in McDowell County pays teachers a certain rate of pay, while the principal of Mount View High School, also in McDowell, chooses a lower wage scale.

Are the River View teachers more deserving and work harder than their colleagues at the county’s other high school? Of course not. Do they have more challenging teaching conditions? Of course not. Should we value the work that teachers do at a Fayette County school more than the work of teachers in Mingo County? Of course not.

A recent proposition to transfer control of teacher salaries to individual schools is ludicrous on its face, dripping with an ugly anti-teacher attitude and seeking permission for principals to treat teachers subjectively and unfairly and give each school the chance to dock teacher salaries and use the money for other purposes.

If we learned anything from the 2018 statewide teacher walkout and the public’s strong support of our public-school educators, it is that we need to value our teachers more, not less; to treat them as professionals, not pawns; and to provide more incentives for people to become teachers.

Supporters of this market-driven approach juxtapose it with a push for school choice programs such as educational savings accounts and school vouchers. The only choice we should be promoting is to choose to give every student a well-rounded, well-funded, high-quality education that respects its teachers.

Tuition vouchers, tax credits and other types of privatized public education drain funds from regular public schools. They lack the accountability and transparency of traditional public schools.

And perhaps worst of all, school choice — supposedly intended to benefit vulnerable children — fails these kids academically. An analysis of the Washington, D.C., voucher program by the U.S. Department of Education found it has a negative effect on student achievement.

The Louisiana voucher program has led to a large decline in kids’ reading and math scores. Students in Ohio’s voucher program did worse than those in traditional public schools. And for-profit and online charter schools have similar results.

Every child in America — including in West Virginia — deserves a well-supported, effective public school near his or her home. Talk of school vouchers and other choice programs raises issues that have been all-but discarded by much of the nation because research and experience has proven them to be failed approaches.

Let’s not fall into that trap.

We’ve seen what works to improve student achievement across the nation — in rural towns, suburban areas and large urban districts. Public schools that do well are well-funded, provide teachers with the resources they need to do their jobs, allow teachers to use project-based instruction to enable students to learn such important concepts as critical thinking skills and teamwork.

To be successful, we must ensure our students have access to the resources they need (including modern textbooks and a well-rounded curriculum) and respect their teachers by giving them voice on the job and fair wages.

Education is the foundation for everything else that follows a person in life. Let’s give it the respect it deserves.

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