Some readers received an email signed by Jill Biden. They asked what I thought of her message. They asked me how I would respond if I were in their place.
The letter says:
I’ve been a teacher in public schools and community colleges for more than 30 years.
Being an educator is about more than teaching — it’s about instilling confidence. There is no better moment than when I see a student realize that she can do whatever she sets her mind to do. I’m sure you know that feeling, too.
President Obama knows what that’s like, too. He understands that improving the education system takes all of us, and that teachers are absolutely critical to those efforts. He listens when teachers explain the challenges they face in overcrowded and underfunded classrooms. And he knows that education is key to a healthy economy and a strong country. That’s why he’s working so hard to improve our schools.
You are receiving this email because you have told the campaign you also work in education.
Today, I’m proud to invite you to join me as a member of Educators for Obama, a new group of supporters dedicated to re-electing the President, who was once a college professor himself. Sign up and get connected with the Educators for Obama community today.
President Obama has made education a priority. He is giving states the flexibility they need to strengthen their schools and end the practice of teaching to the test. When states were cutting their budgets and laying off teachers, he took action to keep more than 400,000 educators in the classrooms where they were needed. He’s proposed competitive funding to make sure teachers and educators like us get the respect we deserve. And he’s made federal student loan payments more affordable by ensuring public school teachers who make their payments on time will have their remaining debt forgiven after 10 years.
Our students deserve a president who is committed to their education — and to the teachers who help them succeed.
As a member of Educators for Obama, you’ll be kept in the loop about important news and events. We’ll also provide you with the resources you need to organize your friends and colleagues in support of the President.
So join teachers, principals, educational professionals, and me, and stand with President Obama this November:
Of course, everyone should write whatever they believe.
This is what I would say.
Since you are an experienced educator, I know you can sympathize with my plight. I admire President Obama and remain grateful for his work in providing stimulus dollars to prevent budget cuts in 2009-2010. That meant a lot to me and to fellow educators.
However, I am surprised that you think that Race to the Top has introduced “flexibility” or that “competitive funding” (i.e. Race to the Top) gave “respect” to educators or that Race to the Top will “end the practice of teaching to the test.” None of this is true, and I assume that someone in the Department of Education has not informed you accurately about the negative effects of Race to the Top on educators and our nation’s schools.
Race to the Top has made “teaching to the test” even more important than No Child Left Behind. Because of RTTT, my state now ties teachers’ evaluations to student test scores. Because of RTTT, many states are passing laws to remove any protection for teachers’ freedom to teach, as it will be easier to fire teachers for any reason or no reason. Because of RTTT, my job and that of other teachers and principals requires that we teach to the test.
My state was lauded by Secretary Duncan for opening more privately managed charter schools, which takes funding away from the public schools, so we now have larger classes and fewer resources to help the neediest children, who are not welcomed by the charter schools. So, yes, there is overcrowding and underfunding, and the diversion of public funds to charter schools and vouchers is one cause of those conditions.
As this terrible movement to dismantle public education and to reduce the status of teachers to at-will employees gathers momentum, I have not heard either President Obama or Secretary Duncan speak out forcefully against it. I have not heard either of them denounce the legislation that hurts our nation’s public schools. Instead, Secretary Duncan has given federal funds and plaudits to some of the states that are enacting the most toxic legislation.
I voted for President Obama and Vice-President Biden with enthusiasm in 2008. I am certainly not attracted to Romney, whose ideas are even worse for educators and public schools than Race to the Top.
But I wanted you to understand why I and so many other educators are disappointed in the education record of the Obama administration. It is likely to be a close election, and the Obama team needs our votes. I remain hopeful that the President will eliminate Race to the Top. Words will not be enough to persuade educators that this administration is on their side.