After a stressful few weeks of uncertainty from the impending RIFs followed by 16 lay offs at my school alone, it was a welcomed feeling to board a bus full of colleagues to last Thursday's Washington Teachers Union rally. New teachers alongside veteran teachers rode together as we joined the thousands of others rallying around the unjust budget cuts made a month and a half into the school year.
Despite all of the rhetoric and finger pointing by Rhee/Fenty and the City Council, those of us directly impacted—teachers, parents and students—were finally uniting and standing up to the lack of planning and transparency that has become the MO of the Rhee Administration. Enough is Enough! Young and old, white and black, custodian and teacher, fired and employed—we rallied together with a sense of unity and purpose.
From the beginning of the mayoral takeover phrases have been used to divide us—adults vs. students, red tier vs. green tier, veteran teacher vs. new teacher. Yet, the RIFs served as a unifying force because they were the latest and most egregious example of the disconnect between central office decisions and their impacts on schools. Adding fuel to the fire were the repeated assurances by the Mayor and Chancellor that the RIFs were not going to impact children and that only incompetent teachers were fired. The Washington Post’s article about Marie Fonrose is just one example of how these comments are more propaganda for an administration that seems more concerned with PR than providing basic resources to classroom teachers.
At the rally I saw community—something that has been seriously lacking in the school reform efforts under Michelle Rhee. If we are going to transform our schools, we need to work together to create positive and conducive teaching and learning environments. That requires long term planning, transparency, stability, and a willingness to unify all stakeholders. We need to get beyond the management vs. union confrontation that has allowed many to think that teachers only care about a paycheck and a job for life. The WTU must broaden the dialogue to expose the realities of the current reform so that the solution can’t be reduced to more TFA and KIPPs as Richard Whitmire’s attempts to do in today’s Post. I wonder if Mr. Whitmire has spent any real time in a DC public school or was he spewing out the latest reform rhetoric.
The RIFs were a glimpse for many of the big picture of instability and poor planning that has continued to make teaching and learning difficult for teachers—both TFA and veteran. I hope the rally serves as the spark that ignites a demand for accountability from the reformers. There's way too much at stake for those of us in the trenches not to speak out and demand an active role in DCPS reform. The students of DCPS can't wait another 5 years to get things right.