No educator joins the profession to become involved in the internal and external politics of the job… But along the way we realize and become thankful for the work of those who have decided to stand up for colleagues who care so much about their students that they often neglect to fight for themselves.
Thankfully, those who came before fought to allow us a voice at the table. They pushed for livable wages (always behind the private sector but with the promise of benefits into retirement), time to prepare for classes, clean and safe conditions for our schools, and so much more.
We enjoy many of those benefits today. They allow us to support families of our own, live in and enhance the communities in which we teach, and afford each of us the opportunity to enjoy the best job in the world, educating our children for the future. All this, which would not seem unreasonable, without living in poverty or just above it.
But times have changed.
We have seen a global economic meltdown caused by Wall Street greed and corporate self-interest.
Politicians are now more concerned about those same corporations sitting on record profits than they are about American families struggling to survive.
They have convinced many in America that the way forward is to pull those around you down. Rather than push for what made this country strong, fighting for more for each middle class family, we are now told that our neighbors should lose more because we are hurting too.
As educators, we are on the front line. We educate more and more children living in poverty. Our schools are blamed for underachievement while the cities and towns they are in are overrun with joblessness, crime, and drugs. We also face many who are intent on stealing the public funding of our schools to assist more private corporations in making a profit on education at the expense of our students.
Of course, the unions which fight to protect educators and other middle class families are public enemy number one. Even the middle class lifestyle we enjoy is under attack in the form of reduced benefits, protections, salaries, and security.
… And that is why I ran for and am currently NJEA Secretary-Treasurer.
Now, as much as ever, we need strong experienced leaders fighting to protect our rights, our schools, our future, and the future of the American middle class.
Even in these difficult times I have been an effective leader in working for our members through community partnerships, effective organizing, and expanded involvement.
Such success is based on the respect of both my colleagues and those we partner with for strong public schools. It is an understanding that I will always fight to protect our profession and those who teach our most cherished resource, but it should be done through cooperation first. Certainly there is a time to fight, but while we will prevail in such a scenario, it benefits all to find solutions.
In these times, the conflicts we face require progressive new ideas. Through my roles at the local, county, state, and national level, I understand the keys to our past success but also appreciate the need for new strategies moving forward.
I thank you for your support and your confidence in me as we move forward together.
The Future is Now.