If you're feeling powerless as a public educator lately, let's do something about it. As Señora Diamond pointed out to me, "we have to talk about it to anyone who will listen." Most of our Facebook friends and followers are probably already at least a little sympathetic on issues like vouchers, charter schools, and merit pay, so we must take our messages beyond our virtual walls.
Catch anyone you can who has any interest in the recent changes that are threatening our loved ones as well as our livelihoods. Lay out in as few words as you can the fundamental evils that would rob the next generation of a shot at equality. Get yourself an elevator speech that could persuade someone to save our schools before you get to the third floor.
These are my attempts at convincing the uninformed in under a minute (each). Any counterpoints you can think of would help me hone them, so please share them. If you can't think of any, you could use these speeches yourself when the elevator finds you with an audience if you like.
Vouchers will never cover the cost of private school tuition. They are not full rides--not even half the cost most of the time. Families that have the remaining $5,000 or $20,000 to pay the difference are statistically not the ones whose students are getting"left behind" in public schools. Meanwhile, vouchers do drain the collective pool that provides additional teachers when class sizes threaten to exceed logical boundaries. Vouchers sap the funds that mean up-to-date resources for roomfuls of children. They are "scholarships" only for those who already have bootstraps to pull themselves up. Vouchers are "scholarships" that strand the shoeless in a depleted system.
If "highly qualified" teachers are essential to student success in other public schools, why aren't they in charter schools? If salary should not matter to a truly dedicated teacher, why are competitive wages even a consideration in charter schools? If charter schools are for parents who want something better or just different for their children, what does that leave for children whose parents don't know or don't care? Where will those children go after high school? What options will they have after a lifetime of underfunded, overcrowded public schooling when they're old enough to choose for themselves?
Rewarding educators for a job well-done is not a bad idea in itself. Limiting rewards to only the top of the heap, however, obliterates incentive to cooperate and ensure everyone's success. In fact, it incentivizes those who would stab a colleague in the back for financial gain and encourages closed doors instead of the collaboration and support that would benefit all. Students whose teachers need to improve but don't know how on their own would be left adrift or bring their colleagues' ranking down by their own success. Children are neither products nor customers: they are children. They all deserve every possible advantage in their education, not a cutthroat system that dooms struggling teachers to struggle alone.