Dear Secretary Duncan:
Yesterday, when political ideologues were running full page ads attacking teachers and calling kids garbage — I was in the small town of Emporia, Kansas helping to dedicate a memorial to educators who made the ultimate sacrifice for their students. The headlines in the last few days have been dominated by political attacks against public school educators, while scant attention was paid to a cherished child who lost his life to yet another gun attack in a school.
It’s easy to get discouraged when the rhetoric of our opponents dominates the headlines and the airwaves.
But I, like you, don’t look at the world through the pages of USA Today or the headlines in Politico. I see the world through the eyes of the students I have taught and the eyes of educators who you and I work with every day to fight for great public schools for every student.
We look through their eyes and see those attacks, those headlines and get angry.
Angry at a system that would vilify dedicated educators who get up every day with one focus — helping their students succeed.
Angry at a system that’s narrowly focused on small silver-bullet solutions while blind to the larger problems of poverty, inequity and the growing gulf that separates students from the opportunity to succeed.
And Yes — I get angry at corporate interests that would rather see public schools as a billion-dollar enterprise and our children as commodities to be profited from rather than a public good and the driving force for excellence AND equity.
I have a message for those people who would seek to reduce children to a test score and teaching to a technological transaction.
You are mistaken if you think we will see your attacks and get discouraged, that we will read the headlines and give up.
You may put students in the name of your campaigns but that doesn’t mean you really care about the millions of children in our public schools.
If you did truly care, you would look at the more than half of public-school children who live in poverty and wage your crusades against the inequity in our economy.
If you truly cared, you would look at the deteriorating conditions in schools across this country and aim your fire at politicians who have starved our schools of the resources to succeed and then punished them for their failures.
If you truly cared, then you would see the scourge of violence that has once again taken away a young life and run your full page ads demanding action to end the plague of gun violence in our schools and communities.
Yesterday those opponents of public education were celebrating their political wins and driving their version of the story on education hoping that in declaring victory we – educators, our association – would concede defeat.
But what they don’t realize is that I am a teacher. I, like the millions of educators across this country, won’t give up on our kids.
I will continue to fight for them, and for the educators across this country who dedicate themselves to fulfilling the promise of another generation of students.
This association won’t give up until we have brought together everyone who believes in the promise of great public schools for all and we’ve declared victory for our kids.
I, like you, won’t give up because we are educators.
We are NEA.
Dennis Van Roekel
National Education Association