With much recent discussion regarding teacher unions, taxes and education, we want to take a moment to respond to some of the letters recently published in The Press.
We are both local high school science teachers, parents of both a Liberty High School freshman and a LHS graduate. We are Brentwood citizens, taxpayers, voters and proud public workers.
Collective bargaining is a process of mutual agreement, which results in a contract that is fair and equitable to both the teachers and the school district. Disrupting the collective bargaining process by restricting only one side will lead to a long-term spiral downward in delivering a well-constructed educational opportunity for our children. The call to “reform” teacher unions is simply misguided, as they can be a tool in school reform; they are not the reason why education needs to be revamped year after year.
Teachers know the effects of larger class sizes and reduced opportunities due to budget shortfalls. That is why, through collective bargaining, we advocate for the improvement of an array of issues, including smaller class sizes. Although our contracts deal with wages and working conditions, teachers’ working conditions are also students’ learning conditions.
As is happening in Wisconsin and a number of other states across our nation, there is a cry that teachers and teacher unions must be accountable to the taxpayers. Teachers are taxpayers. They are your neighbors. There are 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, and 1.5 million members of the American Federation of Teachers in our nation. Both organizations spend time and money ensuring that our nation’s children are offered the best possible education. Similarly, corporations have industry trade groups (lobbyists) to represent their interests before all governmental agencies.
Unions are the most democratic entities in existence today. Members have access to directing their leadership via voting, the petition process and attendance at public forum membership meetings.
Teachers cannot be disconnected from politics. Every aspect of a classroom and every penny spent on education is determined politically: class size, textbooks, pencils and paper, lab materials, campus safety, food services, libraries, counseling and much more.
We could vote to eliminate or reduce taxes, but that is a vote for larger class sizes, and reduced educational opportunities for future generations, as well as more potholes, reduced fire protection and police services, etc.
Days were eliminated from the current school year to help balance our school district’s budget. Although our income (remember, we are taxpayers too) was reduced, we are more concerned about the fact that instructional time was taken away from the more than 7,300 students in our district. Unfortunately, “furlough” days and layoffs are commonplace throughout California, and we must understand the negative impact to our students and our state economy.
We see the need for passing a tax extension in June. As the school year, classroom materials and services decrease while class sizes increase, we cannot imagine the impact of even greater cuts to education.
Spencer and Poppy Holmes, Brentwood