Letter: Stand up for public education

I would like to preface this letter by saying that I am a teacher of 17 years, and I will be attending the Red for Ed event at Indianapolis on Tuesday, November 19. I have chosen to use a personal day so that I can stand up for one of my deepest passions, education.

I am not traveling to Indianapolis to merely ask for higher teacher pay as I heard a news agency report. Rather, I am making this trip to beg and plead that we all open our hearts and eyes and fully realize that the students need to be returned as the central focus of all decisions that are made that pertain to our public education system.

I will never understand how education has been allowed to become so politicized. When I stand in front of my room full of students each day, I recognize that they deserve nothing less than my best efforts as an educator. However, these same students, and all the youth across our state and country, also deserve the best efforts of all politicians and citizens that speak of and make decisions pertaining to education.

My fellow teachers and I worked diligently with our administration and school board at the beginning of this school year to settle our contract for the next two years. There were different opinions, but there were no opposing sides. I am proud of the forward-thinking contract that was settled upon, but I am most proud of the fact that we all sat at that table and kept the students as the focus of our talks. Why should we expect anything less from those at the state and federal level?

I am grateful to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, for her efforts to remove politics from the education decision making. Yet, her efforts to work with State Senator Eddie Melton are referred to as “curious” and her political loyalty has been called into question merely because these two are from different political parties. Why in the world does party affiliation matter when it comes to two mature adults sitting down and discussing what our youth deserve? There may very well be differing opinions, but sensible citizens don’t let that derail discussions. Rather, forward-thinking ideas generate from sensible collaboration.

I would ask that everyone speak to local educators and administrators about the challenges in today’s education system and how to overcome them. There are too many talking points that have derailed sensible and informed decisions about education. Yes, teacher salary is one of the issues that needs to be resolved, as a more competitive salary is what will lead to attracting the best professionals into the field of education. Currently, the decline in students majoring in education is leading to a significant decrease in qualified applicants for teaching positions.

However, another pressing issue that needs to be resolved is in regards to state-mandated standardized tests. These tests have changed with such frequency that the data collected from them is nearly worthless. Furthermore, the emphasis on standardized tests limits the priority and funds schools can give to other programs such as business, trade, and fine arts classes just to name a few.

So, on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, I will proudly be wearing red and firmly standing up for public education. I am choosing to do this because I possess the profound belief that our youth deserve us all to be at our best, and quite frankly, they deserve better from our legislature.

Finally, I would like to encourage everyone to consider wearing red on this day as well. We are at our best when we stand together, and it is time that we do just that.

Kerry Lueken
Mathematics Teacher
Springs Valley Jr./Sr. High School

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