Dear Governor Christie,
Yesterday I took the opportunity to come hear you speak on your campaign trail. I have never really heard you speak before except for sound bytes that I get on my computer. I don't have cable, I don't read newspapers. I don't have enough time. I am a public school teacher who works an average of 60 hours a week in my building. Yes, you can check with my principal. I run the after-school program along with my classroom position. I do even more work when I am at home. For verification of this, just ask my children.
I asked you one simple question yesterday. I wanted to know why you portray New Jersey public schools as failure factories. Apparently that question struck a nerve. When you swung around at me and raised your voice, asking me what I wanted, my first response “I want more money for my students.” Notice, I did not ask for more money for me. I did not ask for my health benefits, my pension, a raise, my tenure, or even my contract that I have not had for nearly three years.
We got into a small debate about how much money has been spent on education. To me, there is never enough money that is spent on education. To invest in education is to invest in our future. We cannot keep short-changing our children and taking away opportunities for them to explore and learn. As more money is required for state-mandated curriculum changes and high-stakes standardized testing, it is our children that are losing. Programs are being cut all over the state as budget changes are forcing districts to cut music, art, after-school transportation, and youth-centered clubs.
But let's put money aside for a moment. What do I want? What do 'we people' want?
We want to be allowed to teach. Do you know that the past two months has been spent of our time preparing and completing paperwork for the Student Growth Objectives? Assessments were created and administered to our students on material that we have not even taught yet. Can you imagine how that made us feel?
The students felt like they were worthless for not having any clue how to complete the assessments. The teachers felt like horrible monsters for having to make the students endure this. How is that helping the development of a child? How will that help them see the value in their own self-worth?
This futile exercise took time away from planning and preparing meaningful lessons as well as the time spent in class actually completing the assessments. The evaluations have no statistical worth and has even been recognized as such by the New Jersey Department of Education.
I am all for evaluation of a teacher. I recognize that I should be held accountable for my job. This does not worry me, as long as I am evaluated on my methods of teaching. I cannot be held wholly accountable for the learning growth of a student when I am not accountable for all of the factors that influence this growth.
Are you aware that poverty is the biggest determination of a child's educational success. If not, I suggest you read Diane Ravitch's new book Reign of Error. Take a moment and become enlightened.
Getting back to the issue of money. I am fully aware of our educational budget. Where is all of this money? To me it seems like it is being siphoned right off into the hands of private companies as they reap the benefits of the charter schools and voucher programs that you have put into place.
It certainly hasn't gone to improve school conditions in urban areas such as Jersey City. The conditions that these students and teachers are forced to be in are horrifying. Yet you are not allowing the funds needed to improve these conditions. Are you hoping that these schools get closed down and more students are forced to go to private charter schools while the districts are being forced to pay their tuition?
I know for a fact that this is what has happened in Camden and Newark. Yet these charter schools are not held to the same accountability as our public schools. Why is that? Because deep down you know that you are not really dealing with the issues that influence a child's education. You are simply putting a temporary band-aid into place. Unfortunately that temporary fix is already starting to be exposed as charter schools are showing that they actually are not able to do better than public schools.
You are setting up teachers to take the blame for all of this. You have portrayed us as greedy, lazy, money-draining public servants who do nothing. I invite you to come do my job for one week, Governor Christie. I invite you to come see my students, see how little they really have during the school day as they are being forced to keep learning for a single snapshot of their educational worth. For that one end-all, be-all test, the NJASK. The one that the future of my job and my life is now based upon.
Why do you portray schools as failure factories? What benefit do you reap from this? Have you acquired financial promises for your future campaigns as you eye the presidential nomination? Has there been backroom meetings as you agree to divert public funds to private companies that are seeking to take over our public educational system? This is my theory. To accomplish all of this, you are setting up the teachers to take the blame. Unfortunately, you are not the only governor in our country who has this agenda.
What do “we people' want, Governor Christie? We want our schools back. We want to teach. We want to be allowed to help these children to grow, educationally, socially, and emotionally. We want to be respected as we do this, not bullied.
Melissa Tomlinson, BadAss Teacher
With A Brooklyn Accent
Sunday, 3 November 2013