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Opinion

Our Teachers Shouldn’t Be On The Chopping Block To Fix The State’s Problems

By Rep. Darrio Melton

We have a lot of issues on our plate for the upcoming legislative session, and we’ve talked a lot about many of the critical issues: our state’s budget crisis, lack of Medicaid expansion, prison overcrowding, jobs, and so on.

As we’re moving closer to the 2016 session, rumors are beginning to circulate about several legislators’ plans to revisit teacher tenure and bring No Child Left Behind back to Alabama.

I won’t pretend that Alabama’s education system needs an overhaul.  Our public schools work very well for a select few, but are terribly broken for most of our kids.  There are a lot of ways we can fix this, from making sure our education budget is linked to secure and stable funding, creating technical training programs at our high schools, establishing statewide qualified pre-k programs, and so much more.

One way we absolutely cannot fix this is by attacking our teachers.

Aside from parents, teachers spend more time with our children than anyone else.  Outside of family, teachers have the largest impact on teaching our children right from wrong, good from bad, motivating their dreams and assuaging their fears.  I can think back over my life and point to several key teachers who made me the person I am today, and I’m sure everyone else can, too.

Yet too many in Montgomery see these people as part of the problem, not part of the solution.  Rather than asking our teachers, those on the front-lines every day, how we can improve education, they’re looking to reform tenure and tell our teachers how to teach–insisting they teach to the requirements of the test, rather than teach to the requirements of our children

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Could you imagine your frustration if policymakers in Montgomery started passing legislation and regulations to tell you how to do the day-to-day aspects of your job?  It would be overbearing, and perhaps that’s why we’re losing so many talented teachers to the private sector.

No two children in this state are exactly alike: no two children come from the same circumstances or learn in the same way or have the same hopes and dreams for their future.  Asking our teachers to fit all of these children into a cookie-cutter standardized test in order to get paid is not just unfair, it’s a disservice to our children.  Teachers undergo years of schooling to learn how to teach to the student, to recognize problems as they arise, and to make sure all children are getting a quality education.

Nobody knows how to teach our children better than our educators, and I think it’s time we let them do their jobs and pay them like the professionals they are.  That absolutely doesn’t mean undermining their strategies and undercutting their paychecks.   Because our children deserve better, our teachers deserve better.  Let’s find solutions to the problems that face Alabama without throwing our teachers under the school bus.

Rep. Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

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