My home state of Wisconsin has been making a lot of headlines recently and the news is not good. In case you haven't heard, the current governor - Scott Walker - has decided that to solve the state's budget woes his only option is to destroy collective bargaining for public employees.
While troublesome in a broad sense because of its disdain for labor, the group affected by this decision that I'm most worried over is Wisconsin's teachers. I'm indebted to Wisconsin's public school system for my education - which was a truly excellent one at that. Teachers helped me to discover my love of learning and my passion for writing. They encouraged me with each step I took toward my goals and when my high school A.P. English teacher surprised me at my book release party, we both cried.
When I was home over the holidays I had the opportunity to visit my former high school and meet with students and teachers. I'm returning to the high school to give formal presentations on writing in April. School visits have become one of my favorite parts of being an author. Teachers play a vital role in organizing special programs, like author visits, to schools. I'm always impressed and moved by how incredibly hard these teachers work. Educators go far beyond the expectations of their jobs in order to enrich children's lives. Teachers are among the most dedicated, over-worked, and under-appreciated laborers of our society. Rather than being recognized for all that they do to help our communities, they've become an easy political target; scapegoats for social and economic ills for which they are not the cause.
I can hardly believe my ears when accusations of over pay for easy tasks fly. Teachers are not overpaid. Many teachers have second jobs in the summer months so they can pay their bills. During the school year teachers are not simply in the classroom, they are running after-school programs, coaching, mentoring and offering enrichment for students who would not otherwise find outlets for their gifts.
The attack on teachers is nothing less than an attack on the welfare of our society. To disrespect the contributions and sacrifices that educators make in service of the community is akin to dumping toxic waste in the river of the present so that its poisons can be dealt with downstream by the future.