Thu04242014

Opinion

Lawmakers play political games with teachers and students

Education has been a hot topic around the state Capitol recently, but not for the reasons you might expect. 
 
 Sen. Reginald Tate

Education has been a hot topic around the state Capitol recently, but not for the reasons you might expect. Instead of talking about results and reform, some lawmakers have been more interested in the Memphis City Schools referendum and several pieces of legislation aimed at taking away teachers’ rights to serve on state boards and organize as a union.

These aren’t the kind of bills that move the conversation forward. None of these proposals help our students achieve higher grades or prepare for college. Instead, they’re taking shots at the people who form the foundation of our education system: our teachers.

Teachers should be some of our greatest allies in the state Capitol, regardless of political affiliation. We should be listening to them and enacting real changes based on what they’re seeing every day in their classrooms. I am disappointed that lawmakers would rather attack our teachers with bills to take away their negotiating power, change or eliminate tenure, and silence their voice in the political process.

This turn of events is a far cry from a year ago, when Democrats and Republicans alike worked together to pass bipartisan legislation as part of our successful Race to the Top application. We worked with teachers and local governments to receive support from all involved parties, even as we passed significant new accountability measures that tied student performance to teacher evaluations.

Teachers were ultimately supportive of the Race to the Top legislation because they wanted the best for their students and their schools, and they felt like the changes could help. They simply wanted acknowledgement that educating our children takes the involvement of everyone in a community, including teachers, students, parents and elected officials. As a result, now our teachers have dedicated funding for training, something the state had never provided previously. Our schools have hired additional instructors, upgraded technology and implemented new teaching models in an attempt to give our children a better future.

It seems that some lawmakers have forgotten the progress we made back then. Instead of focusing on the reforms and changes that are happening at all levels of our educational systems, these officials are more motivated to engage in partisan gamesmanship. It’s time to stop acting like children and start educating them. We can start by committing to partner with our teachers and work together to improve our schools for all of Tennessee’s children, regardless of where they live or how their parents vote.

(Senator Reginald Tate represents portions of Memphis and Shelby County. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (615) 741-2509 or 320 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0033.)

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