Friday, October 20, 2006

Ocean City in October - News from the Maryland State Teachers Association Convention

Every October, thousands of teachers from all over Maryland gather in Ocean City for the annual convention of our statewide association. This year, with the election happening in just a couple weeks, we've got some high profile speakers coming in to talk about their agenda for public education in Maryland. Tomorrow, we'll hear from Congressman Ben Cardin and Mayor Martin O'Malley, both of whom have been endorsed by the association.

Of course, the two people at the convention wearing Ehrlich shirts and looking uncomfortable seem a little annoyed that neither Steele nor Ehrlich is going to be talking. But, then, Steele has had a difficult relationship with MSTA since he headed a committee on education reform that didn't include any representatives of educators. Because after all, some random guy who likes puppies knows more about how to fix schools than teachers. And Ehrlich, well, he didn't even participate in the endorsement process after he refused to fully fund the Thornton plan and came down on the side of letting for-profit corporations run our schools. It's sad, really, given that many of the republicans I know are pro-public education, that the leaders of their party seem to follow the anti-teacher lead of former Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who once called the National Education Association a 'terrorist organization.'

NEA President Reg Weaver spoke today, got people fired up, and cracked some great jokes. One of the most exciting things about teacher unionism in the last few years has been the greater participation of the unions in educational reform. Weaver spoke to that, encouraging us to play a role in the fight to close the achievement gap. But he also made the point that the politicians who claim to support public education - and then pass laws like No Child Left Behind that hurt the schools - need to be held accountable. The fact is that we can eliminate the achievement gap and provide a quality education to every single child in the country. But it means better teacher training, more incentives for people to teach, and a massive effort to decrease class sizes. None of these, of course, is cheap.

Real reform in public education will require a national commitment and a massive investment. And we've got to elect candidates who are willing to fight for that money. Our kids need a good education, not lip service and sound bites from insincere politicians like Ehrlich. Thornton needs to be fully funded, and we need to make the Kopp Commission's recommended investments in school construction to get our kids out of learning shacks. And we need to actually fund every federal education law, including IDEA andNo Child Left Behind. Which is why we need to get Ben Cardin and MArtin O'Malley elected.

I'll check in tomorrow after the Cardin and O'Malley speeches. In the meantime, take a look at MSTA's blogging effort.


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