As recent headlines declare there is an “urgent” need for more qualified teachers in the New Orleans area, we’re left to wonder exactly what it is that people expected to happen.
Uh, yes, we are experiencing a shortage of qualified and certified teachers. But where’s the news in that declaration?
What did we expect to happen when the Orleans Parish School Board was forced by the state to fire more than 7,500 mostly African-American veteran educators in the wake of Hurricane Katrina without one good reason? These teachers were the bedrock of the Black community. Their firing not only deprived Orleans public school students of the opportunity to benefit from their training and shared social, cultural and community experiences, but it decimated the Black middle class in New Orleans.
Here at The New Orleans Tribune we are especially troubled that mainstream media reports about the shortage of qualified teachers have done little to accurately reflect the reasons we face this dilemma. It is the result of an orchestrated coup–deliberate, deleterious acts against public education. Our schools were stolen. Our voices as parents, taxpayers and voters were ignored. Our teachers were disrespected. And our children have been treated as insignificant pawns.
This recent announcement about the lack of trained educators in classrooms is akin to throwing a match into a barrel of gasoline…then yelling there’s a fire. WHAT DID YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN?
Those who have sought to privatize publication education so that they can profit from it have done everything in their power to disregard, disrupt and dismantle our public schools. Meanwhile, many of our elected and appointed leaders have done nothing to stop them. Or worse, they have helped them.
As a nation, we refuse to pay teachers what they are worth.
In this city and state, our leaders summarily fired veteran teachers without cause after a natural disaster.
Then we allow so-called reformers to minimize the commitment to the profession of teaching by placing what amounts to heat-and-serve tutors in our classrooms as soon as they complete a five-week Teach for America training course.
And now the fact that many public school classrooms in the New Orleans area are missing the most essential requirement—a qualified, certified teacher—is supposed to be news.
Well, no stuff, Sherlock.
What is it that we expected to happen when federal dollars meant to stabilize schools in the metro area after Katrina were instead used to entice others from across the country to come here by offering paid moving expenses and signing bonuses while those same veteran, qualified and certified teachers fired after the storm were left to pick up the pieces of their lives with no jobs, and in some cases, no pensions or health insurance?
Please tell us what was the expected outcome of allowing our schools to be turned over to private charter management operators who then contracted many of their teaching jobs out to Teach for America, bringing a flood of untrained college grads happy to exchange a couple of years “teaching” public school students in New Orleans to have their student debt erased?
Honestly, what exactly did we think would happen once a few of these add-water-and stir teachers managed to parlay a five-week training session and two years of classroom experience into jobs as state education superintendents and elected positions on state boards of education where they could really have an impact on education policy?
What did we think was going to happen as corporate interests disguised as education advocates pushed so-called reform efforts across the nation that devalued the teaching profession, demonized teacher unions and turned institutions of learning into poorly-run businesses?
Things have grown so bad over the last several decades, that many young people eyeing career options do not even consider the teaching profession as a viable one. Some colleges and universities have even dropped education as a major.
And let’s not even talk about pay. In some cases, teachers are working two or three jobs to supplement their incomes. Meanwhile, charter school CEOs are raking in huge, six-figure salaries.
Now folk want to cry because few people are eager to become qualified, certified teachers–especially in Orleans Parish schools–these days. Who could blame them? WHAT DID YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN?
So forgive us if we disagree. But as we see it, there is not an urgent need for qualified, certified teachers in our classrooms. We do not have a teacher-shortage crisis. We have a public education crisis. An entire institution has been hijacked!
There is an urgent need to re-evaluate and re-prioritize what is important as it relates to public education and the children it is supposed to serve.
There is an urgent need to rectify ill-conceived decisions of the past and to right some wrongs.
There is an urgent need to stop treating our classrooms like revolving doors.
There is an urgent need to end reclaim our schools now!