Dear Governor Snyder,
You have no idea how many teachers would like to reinvent Michigan education. Why don't the elected officials ask us? Is it because the solution to the myriad problems cannot be solved by short-sighted bills, attacks on teachers' benefits and salaries, or political posturing? Is it because those of us who work with Michigan students do, in fact, really know more than most of our administrators, school board members, senators and representatives? Is it because we really do know more about what is necessary than the Mackinac Center, elected school boards, administrators, the Chamber of Commerce, or even the governor? Is it because the task is monumental, but we teachers truly do believe it is possible? Are you all afraid of what you might hear?
I have spent over 30 years in education, teaching in private programs, with students from relatively well-to-do families, parochial school, federal government-sponsored preschool programs, and public school. I have worked in inner city communities, suburbs and rural schools. In those 30 plus years, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the largest factor affecting what goes on in the classroom is the environment from which the students come. I refuse to accept that most parents don't care, or that failing neighborhoods are an excuse for failing schools. But I will tell you that meeting the needs of children from comfortable, safe and healthy homes is infinitely easier than meeting the needs of children who walk past drug dealers and prostitutes, or who were unable to sleep the night before because of the fighting and noise in their neighborhoods. Teaching has changed dramatically for me over the years since I began. It is harder, requires more of my time, requires a higher level of ongoing training, more out-of-pocket expenses (I am talking thousands of dollars here), and more stamina than ever before. I am convinced that the majority of parents and communities do, in fact, care deeply . The problem is that so many of them are dealing with myriad problems caused by their economic situations-problems you cannot imagine-that they turn more and more of what was traditionally family obligation over to the schools. School boards and administrators impose necessary cuts on school budgets, and teachers make up the difference. Students come to school with fewer and fewer resources, and teachers dip into their own pockets to make up the difference.
I love what I do, and I dare say you would be hard-pressed to find a teacher who does not. What makes my job hardest is not the increasing financial costs of the job, but the increased demands that I give more of what I earn, the increased criticism and resentment leveled at teachers for what they do earn, and the decreasing reliance on teachers to solve the educational problems in the districts in which they serve. It would be a lie to say that salary and good health care benefits don't matter--they do. But it would also be a lie to say that I don't resent having my hard work overlooked when Michigan faces funding problems. I am admittedly angry when I read yet another article quoting teacher salaries, without explaining that many of those so-called inflated salaries include coaching, extra duty and extra-curricular jobs that supplement the basic teaching salary, or that the figures include people with seven years of college, and 25+ years of experience. When I know that our local unions have made concessions at the table, in order to keep districts solvent, it is hard to hear that elected officials want us to give even more--not of our knowledge and expertise, but of what we earn for the work we do.
If you are serious about reinventing Michigan education, why not ask your average classroom teachers in Michigan? Why not use your influence to stop the continued attacks, and look at what ordinary good teachers do every day? Why not visit some of our Michigan schools and classrooms, have lunch in our teachers' lounges, share in after-school chats with parents and teachers, talk to our students, custodians, bus drivers, and support personnel? We want this reform more than you do.
Dear Gov. Snyder,
My name is James C. Chapman, a retire Marine Corps Major, working as a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Facilitator with St. Clair County Regional Service Agency within the Port Huron Area School District. I work with and support low-income and at-risk students to assist them in reaching their goals of graduating high school on time and moving on to college or the work place. My proposal to you, sir, is to look at establishing a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program in many of our low performing schools to establish a leadership and discipline quality trait that is deeply missing in our younger generation/society today. If you look at data of high schools that have JROTC programs you will find that those schools perform higher than most schools without a JROTC Program. The JROTC Program mentors brings out the leadership qualities in students in the program. In the best interest of our students and in the shaping of Michigan's Education and future. Thanks you for your time.
R/, James C. Chapman
My hopes for Michigan are that we become the leader in alternative energy development AND lead the world in vehicle research and development.
Dear Governor Snyder:
Listed below are just a few of the concerns that I have:
You keep cutting funding for education, and this is causing Michigan schools to have to continue to make cuts to the bare minimum.
You offered incentives for all school employees to retire, and for the ones that are left we are being penalized by 3 percent being taken out for retirement.
Budget cuts are not helping our school. It’s a proven fact that smaller class sizes improve test scores.
With budget cuts teachers have to experience larger and larger class sizes.
Teachers and staff even have to buy items needed for students out of their pockets. And not knowing if you will receive a paycheck for time already worked.
I am receiving 203 more students at my building, because of closing schools, etc., with no extra help and added duties.
Dear Gov. Snyder,
Hi, I think the only way the US can compete with countries like China is if we bring preschool education into the public school system. Every other industrial country has children in school from age 2 to 18 but we don't start educating the children in the US until age 5. That puts us behind from the start and we are never able to catch up to the rest of the world.
Updated: February 10, 2011