Labor Voices: Let Michigan’s educators know you stand with them

This is Teacher Appreciation Week – but many who work in public education aren’t feeling particularly appreciated.

Educators find themselves under relentless attack by a small-but-loud minority of political extremists who are polluting the public sphere with rage and disinformation. We need everyday Michiganders to stand up for educators and make their voices heard, because our children’s future is on the line.

Despite what some cable news hosts want you to believe, Americans appreciate and trust their kids’ educators more than just about any other profession.

Each year, Gallup conducts its Honesty and Ethics survey, which asks Americans to “rate the honesty and ethical standards of people” in dozens of common fields. Teachers ranked No. 3 in the latest survey, conducted in December, behind only nurses and doctors.

This might come as a shock to those on the extreme right, who have been engaged in a multimillion-dollar campaign of deception about public school educators, with the ultimate goal of defunding public education and turning our kids’ schools over to unaccountable, for-profit corporations.

Opponents of public education — the few and the vocal — rely on silence from the large majority who support their local educators and public schools. As long as regular people remain quiet, right-wing agitators will continue to dominate the conversation with their dangerous conspiracy theories about “indoctrination” and “grooming,” thus giving their inane narratives more credence than they deserve.

As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, the “ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”

These attacks are wearing on our educators and worsening the educator shortage crisis. According to a recent Michigan Education Association survey, job satisfaction among educators dropped 16 points between August 2021 and January 2022, down to only 45%. On top of that, 71% of educators say they’re unsatisfied with the overall conditions facing their profession.

The outlandish political attacks are one of the chief concerns among educators, with 77% saying they’re “extremely” or “very” concerned. If these attacks continue unabated, Michigan’s educator shortage will only get worse, causing widespread devastation to our kids’ futures.

Good people must not allow these political extremists to bully good educators out of their professions.

This Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re asking people to “Champion An Educator.” Whether it’s at school board meetings, on your social media networks, or just at the water cooler, it’s time to speak out and be known that you’re part of the overwhelming majority who support and appreciate Michigan’s public school educators.

Let them know you appreciate educators like Leah Porter, a Holt Public Schools elementary teacher and Michigan’s Teacher of the Year, who holds class meetings and team-building exercises every morning so that each of her young students has the opportunity to feel seen and heard during a critical time in their development.

Let them know you appreciate people like Ted DeChane, a school physical therapist in St. Clair County who works with students with physical and health impairments. Despite his own struggle with long COVID, DeChane continues working to better the lives of his students, even coordinating a community fundraising campaign to build a new accessible playground.

Let them know you appreciate the teachers and staff at Oxford High School, whose quick action during November’s deadly mass shooting saved countless lives, and whose ongoing efforts are helping students and the community heal.

Our students need their educators — and our educators need you. We’re all in this together, and it’s time we all make our voices heard.

Paula Herbart is president of the Michigan Education Association.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Ray Curry, Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights Executive Secretary-Treasurer Tom Lutz and selected Service Employees International Union members.


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MEA member Melissa Lambert, a librarian at Allen Park High School, with MEA Vice President Brett Smith (center) and Allen Park Education President Joel Burkey.

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