Commentary: Teachers are not the enemy

By LINDA TANNER

To the Valley News

Published: 03-13-2023 12:02 PM

Public school teachers are not the enemy the commissioner of education would like you to think they are. We are talking about people who have chosen a profession which requires a college degree, extensive training including an internship, dedication to a demanding job, and work for a modest salary. People don’t go into the field of education to become wealthy. Many leave after the first few years because it is a demanding and stressful job. The brave souls who remain are dedicated to working with students to educate, to share a love of learning, and to help them grow and be the best they can be.

Teachers buy food and supplies out of their own pocket, as well as dedicate time outside the school day for meetings, planning lessons, correcting papers, continuing education courses, setting up science fairs and presentations, and leading co-curricular activities and clubs. Teachers take their responsibility for the safety and health of every student to heart. How many times have we heard the stories of teachers putting themselves and their very lives in danger to protect their students? How many adults still have respect and affection for a teacher who was the trusted adult that was there for them, pushed them to be better, praised their accomplishments, and told them they were proud of them and the person they had become as a young adult?

And what has this commissioner done to promote public education? No longer is there more than a passing recognition of the New Hampshire teacher of the year or the nationally recognized outstanding schools in New Hampshire. There is little publicity, formal ceremony or promotion for these achievements. Instead, the commissioner has supported groups who put a bounty for ‘catching’ a teacher who presents certain parts of history or social emotional learning or even a lesson that shows empathy for marginalized people. He has weaponized a teacher code of ethics with felony charges and loss of a teaching license, a person’s livelihood. He wants to bypass the supervision of teachers by local administrators and school boards with witch hunts from the New Hampshire Department of Education that starts investigations often from anonymous complaints he has received. Now he wants to subpoena teachers’ records to the Department of Education. Why?

No, teachers are not the enemy of public education and neither are the parents or administrators or counselors or coaches or special education staff, or cafeteria workers or janitors or school nurses. Do not let the campaign that is sowing malice, contempt, distrust, division and untruths about teachers, curriculum, administrators, counselors and all school staff dismantle a good public school system that ranks in the top 10 of 50 States. Do not let our dedicated teachers leave this profession because they no longer choose to deal with verbal and physical attack, false accusations, and threats over how and what they teach with possible criminal charges. The damage is being done each day to underfunded and overregulated public schools and disrespected and demoralized public school teachers and staff. The demands on our public schools grow exponentially while under our commissioner taxpayer resource — money earmarked for public education — has been diverted to vigorously promote charter, religious, homeschool learning centers, online schools, and third-party vendors which have little oversight or regulation.

The right to a free and adequate education for all children is delivered by the system of public, community schools. In New Hampshire we have a public system that ranks among the best in the nation, or at least we use to, until the current war on public education. New Hampshire educators developed competency education which became a model for other states. We have some of the highest graduation rates and highest SAT scores in the U.S. Our schools continue to innovate programs and strive to meet the needs of all children without discrimination.

Everyone benefits from having a great public education system that gives us an educated citizenry. It is a public good shared by all. Let your representatives, from local leaders to state leaders to the governor, know that you support our local community schools, our New Hampshire system of locally controlled public schools, and our teachers.

Linda Tanner is a New Hampshire state representative for the Sullivan 5 district.

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