Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring.
In some families, there’s an unwritten rule. You may fight within the family, but if someone from the outside attacks, you unite to defend. Well, the education family is under attack. It’s time for all parts of the family—school boards, administrators, teachers, staff, and substitutes—to circle the wagons to protect the profession and our students.
I know a lot of educators hate politics and they hate the “us-vs-them mentality.” But teachers who’ve taught more than a couple of years realize the profession is being torn apart by the big school board in Des Moines, called the Iowa legislature.
Teaching is political, even if we don’t like it.
Public schools are at risk, and now is the time to protect one another and fight back.
School board members
Thanks for taking the hardest unpaid job in this state. You stepped up for your community and for our kids. The teacher shortage is real and growing. At one time, you had 50 applicants for every job. Now, you have one, and you hope they are qualified. Here’s how you can help.
Stop giving new hires bonuses. I know this is counter-intuitive, but there are three reasons this is hurting instead of helping. First, bonuses are taxed at a higher rate than regular salary, so the bonus evaporates before the new hire even sees it.
Second, if you give a $5,000 signing bonus the first year, the second year, that teacher takes a big pay cut even if he/she takes a step on the salary schedule. Third, in a lot of cases, that bonus makes it so teachers with two or three years of experience earn less than a new hire. That hurts morale and erodes teamwork.
It’s certainly not all about money, but the best way to raise salaries is by using the salary schedule and increasing all salaries. If you were talked into getting rid of the schedule, bring it back. I know you are chronically underfunded, but that’s why there needs to be heavy lobbying of the big school board in Des Moines. You represent the community.
In bargaining, having your initial proposal be your final proposal hurts the community—even if you can do that under the “bargaining lite” system Republicans established in 2017. Veteran teachers look for the exits, and you’ll be increasing the teacher shortage.
Give your administrators the freedom to say no to loud, book-burning parents, and have a workable procedure so parents can appeal that decision. But don’t make it easy to ban books.
Rely on the procedures the school board has established when the loud parents bang on the door. Don’t simply do what they want to avoid conflict. If you do, that’s all you’ll be doing until you take a principled stand. If you treat parents like customers, the customer is always right. They aren’t. Parents are partners. Partners listen and work out differences.
Rely on the professionalism of the teachers you helped hire. Don’t jump to conclusions just because an angry parent screams. Educators deserve professional autonomy and respect.
Most Iowans know the only grooming you do is to send kids with horrible hygiene to the school nurse. Most Iowans don’t think you are teaching pornography, and they know if you could indoctrinate, you’d have them put away the cell phones, show up on time, do the homework and pay attention in class.
The political noise is nonsense.
Police don’t go into dangerous situations without back up. You shouldn’t either. Your back up is the Iowa State Education Association. I know it seems expensive, but so is a $300 an hour lawyer to protect yourself from losing your teaching license because you may have violated one of the new vague, poorly written laws.
You make the school run and you’re grossly underpaid and underappreciated. Thank you. I know there may be a lot of issues in your school, but you also know there are a lot of miracles every day. You live in the community. When you hear lies spreading, tell your neighbors the truth.
You’re a vital part of any school district. Thank you. Please keep doing what you do. I know it’s tempting to go work somewhere else, but you’re building futures just like the teachers that are there every day.
The governor and the legislature are micromanaging public school curriculum at the same time they’re draining resources through an ill-conceived, unregulated, private school voucher scheme.
We don’t have oceans or mountains, but we can again have the number one schools in the country. The education community with its parent partners needs to speak in one voice.