At least 100 people wearing red shirts indicating support for the Tucson Education Association filled the seats at the TUSD Governing Board meeting last Tuesday. On a hot day, when most teachers may be on vacation, the strength of the response was noteworthy. People rallied in response to rumors that a member of the school board wants to separate TUSD from the TEA.
Folks who spoke in support of the association shared the ways in which TUSD has benefited from its partnership with the group. This is what I would expect to happen and is as it should be. But somewhere in the process, beyond the gathering and beyond the testimonials, one question still lingers in my mind.
At a time when public education in this state has taken another harsh beating as a result of this year’s legislative session, and after a school year of disruptive mid-year transitions in the leadership of TUSD, why, oh why, would someone decide to sever the district’s relationship with the one entity which provides teachers with a sense of security?
The threats to our teachers’ security are clear: low wages, the new voucher expansion laws designed to siphon taxpayer dollars from public schools and into private schools, the elimination of certification requirements and the lack of capital funding. For teachers, it all sends a strong message that their livelihoods are at stake.
These threats stem from the lack of funding built into our state’s budget, fueled by a small minority and a governor who would rather give tax breaks and put an end to district schools and public education. Yet, each year our teachers continue to create lessons, mentor students, coach, sponsor extracurricular activities and develop their craft. They give and serve with energy, enthusiasm and generosity.
The most impressive comments shared at the board meeting came from the people who currently hold and have held leadership roles in the TEA. Those folks took the time to calmly explain the power dynamics at play and the necessity of bargaining with one another in order to produce an endgame of strong outcomes in the midst of challenging situations.
Talk of partnership and the strength that comes when both district and union work together was inspiring. Those words instilled confidence and pride because that is the support our teachers need. The union represented the teachers well and demonstrated its ability to stand up for our teachers because it takes the time to listen to them.
It is a little troubling when the people elected to serve our communities decide to break ties with the union, which has a long history in our district. The insensitivity of the timing could be interpreted as a “kick ‘em while they’re down” move. It makes me wonder if those who are in positions of power, those who continue to perpetuate chaos, care more about protecting said power and position than they do about our children.
The bottom line is that the more distracted the adults become, the less we have to offer our children. Our teachers are one of the gatekeepers to our children’s futures. What would it look like if our elected school board officials could block the distractions and free up our teachers to focus fully on capturing the minds of our young people by igniting a quest for lifelong learning? Instead of mistrust and uncertainty, what would happen if our teachers could proudly say that their school board represents them well?