Despite what some far-right politicians and cable news talking heads might want you to believe, the public trusts educators more than just about anyone else — and that’s why educators should stand up and make their voices heard.
According to Gallup’s annual Honesty and Ethics of Professions survey, educators rank No. 3 on the list of most-trusted professions, just behind nurses and doctors. In fact, educators are trusted at least 600% more than the very politicians trying to disparage them.
MEA members should use that massive reputational advantage and push back against the small (but glaringly loud) minority of people attacking public school educators.
That’s exactly what Leah Porter, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year, is doing via her advocacy before the state Legislature and in the news media. In a recent Detroit Free Press guest column, Porter, who teaches in Holt Public Schools, outlines a number of reforms the Legislature should enact immediately to provide much-needed relief to educators.
“We have all heard many times these past few years, including from state legislators, about the importance of supporting teachers and students — yet spring is here, and we still have no real relief in sight. The Legislature’s failure to act suggests to educators that the urgent issues in our neighborhood schools are being ignored by those in power.”
“We are at a tipping point. There has never been a more critical time to support our educators and their students. Lip service is not enough. If the Legislature fails to act soon, Michigan children now and into the future will be irreparably harmed.”
Meanwhile, South Lyon Community Schools teacher Keith Kindred recently submitted an audio essay to Michigan Radio asking educators, parents and allies to make their voices heard in the face of growing political attacks against public education. Addressing the vast majority of the population who support their public schools but let a miniscule minority of extremists dominate the conversation, Kindred pleads:
“Our society needs you to go further. Show up at a school board meeting and speak during the public comments section about your support for an honest look at our nation’s history, not a whitewashed one, pun very much intended. Email your child’s teachers and let them know you support their efforts to promote civil discourse. And most of all, when you hear people espouse extremist points of view, at the very least, tell them you don’t agree with such talk.”
Parents are heeding that call and speaking up too, such as Forest Hills’ Becky Olson in a recent Bridge Michigan opinion piece, “Michigan schools aren’t failing our kids, but divisive politicians are,” saying in part:
“We must bring a stop to the division and manufactured crises being raised to generate attention for these initiatives and reverse the harmful trend of using public schools as the scapegoat for ‘failing’ our kids.”
“To repair the torn fabric of our communities, politicians must drop the divisive bills inspired by the not-so-transparent talking points and tactics of the voucher movement. Our public schools are incredibly productive spaces that are doing amazing things for Michigan kids. We can rebuild the shared pride in our schools again.”
GOP lawmaker seeking educator input
At a House subcommittee meeting last month, Rep. Brad Paquette, a Niles Republican and chair of the School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee, called for teachers and other school employees to share their thoughts with the committee about what is driving people from the education profession – especially younger educators.