Education excellence is everyone’s responsibility


By UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh

For the past few weeks, I have been traveling around the state listening to the concerns of my fellow public school educators. Most challenges they face are those I’ve heard expressed throughout my 32-year teaching career—class sizes are too large, we don’t have enough planning time, there’s not enough money for supplies… But an entirely new issue has recently emerged. An overwhelming number of my colleagues are now asking, “When did teachers become the enemy?” or “Why do they hate teachers so much?”

Of all the strategies to discredit public schools, none is more unfair than making teachers into scapegoats.

It is difficult to deny that public education, teachers and their associations are under attack. A Salt Lake Tribune editorial (“Whose mediocrity: Senator’s goal: privatize schools,” Sept. 26) chronicled one state senator’s continued attempts to “dismantle” and privatize our public schools. This same senator is seeking to eliminate the right of educators to bargain salaries, benefits and teaching conditions with their school boards. Most recently, a proposal was presented to the Utah State Board of Education that would take away a teacher’s right to any kind of firing process, effectively leaving teacher’s to the whim of their supervisors after the completion of a specified contract term, regardless of their teaching ability.

There is absolutely no research to suggest these proposals would do anything to improve student learning or teacher instruction. They are clearly politically motivated rather than student focused.

Just as making our teachers scapegoats won’t solve the challenges facing public education, neither will pointing the fingers solely at legislators. While many teachers feel chronic underfunding by our legislature has left Utah’s public schools starved of the resources they need to succeed, that’s not the whole story either.

The reality is that everyone—teachers, parents, students, schools, communities, legislators, school boards—must be partners in building quality neighborhood public schools. And we ALL should be held accountable for our students’ success.

Teachers must be held accountable to clearly defined standards that are based on research and use multiple measures. Parents must ensure that their children come to school ready to learn by teaching them values like responsibility and respect for others, and by instilling a love of learning. Students must be motivated to work hard to achieve their full potential. Schools must be accountable to taxpayers. Communities must engage and support their neighborhood schools. Legislators must provide school boards with the tools and resources they need to succeed. School boards, policymakers and administrators must partner with classroom teachers to promote student success.

As the UEA president and elected representative of Utah’s public school teachers, I am committed to setting aside differences and working with all these stakeholders in a true spirit of collaboration—earnestly seeking education excellence for all students. Those who know me and have met with me know I take this commitment very seriously.

It’s time for all of us to recognize there is no “silver bullet” to solve the challenges facing public education. No single law or policy change, no new program, no innovative technology will by itself bring about the changes necessary to ensure a quality education for every student.

It is absolutely critical we stop engaging in ideas that promote a cycle of short-term fixes, diminish our children’s comprehensive education, punish schools and educators, and perpetuate the blame game. Let’s recognize that we all have a responsibility. Let’s begin a new collaborative dialogue where we place excellence for our children and our public schools at the center of every conversation.


teachers "bad guys"? No

Date Posted: 2/16/2012 10:55:27 PM
Name: Lyn Adams

I don't get the impression that teachers are considered by the general public to be the bad guys, unless they have been convicted of child molestation, etc. But the teachers' unions truly have been vilified. Not teachers, essentially. People like Steve Jobs have said that if we got rid of the teachers' unions, then education would be improved in this country. How do we go up against that? And with the recent news about the state agents who inspect students' lunch boxes and decide what is nutritionally acceptable and tell the students that their moms didn't pack a proper lunch. And feed them chicken nuggets instead (even though they are way too high in fat and sodium). And the moms get offended by the seemingly "overreaching" public school system. I think parents are fed up with that--no pun intended. And in MI, Debbie Squires didn't do us any favors by saying that parents don't have the "capability" to choose what's best for their children, educationwise. So what can we do as the UEA to address these concerns of parents?

Bad Guys?

Date Posted: 11/9/2011 2:43:22 PM
Name: Kathy Peake

I, too, have felt teachers are under attack. When did we become the bad guys? If anything, we should get merit pay for each student in our class who continually disrupts, for students who need more teacher time and one on one help, for students whose parents chronically bring them to school late or not at all, for each student whose parents are not involved in their education (not attending SEP's or helping with reading and homework.) All these things, and more, make a teacher's job more difficult.I feel we are negatively reinforced for our time and hard work.


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