Friday, January 23, 2009

Memo to the T-P: We want more

The Times-Picayune's uptown Brahmin's have their knickers all in a twist because the LFT wants our teachers to be paid as well as any in the nation.

Just wait until they find out what else we want.

Improved school buildings, advanced technology and lower pupil-teacher ratios, for starters, ought to give the editorial writers apoplectic sticker shock. And that's not all.

This year, the Federation will press lawmakers to determine how much we should be spending on public schools. What does it cost to educate our children, to provide each of them with what Superintendent Paul Pastorek refers to as a “world-class education?” Do we have the texts, technology, facilities and personnel that are necessary? What do these components cost?

Once we know that figure, that is what the LFT will ask for. It will probably be a lot.

Just as it was not the fault of the people of New Orleans that substandard levees failed and must be rebuilt at huge cost, it is not the fault of Louisiana's teachers that public education has been shortchanged for years. And it certainly is not our fault that the legislature and Gov. Jindal handed out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tax breaks just as oil revenues tanked.

We are not naive enough to believe that the legislature will fund all our requests this year. But we have to ask. We have to ensure that the real needs of our schools, our educators and our children do not fade from the public discourse.

When the huffy potentates of his day asked labor hero Samuel Gompers just what unions wanted, he replied:

“What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures.”

For the teachers and support staff in our schools, for the children they serve, and for the future of our state, we want more.

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