Dick Yarbrough: An open letter to Georgia’s public school teachers
by Dick Yarbrough
Columnist
May 23, 2012 01:26 AM | 13028 views | 49 49 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
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I write to applaud you for having made it through another year in Georgia’s public schools. Good for you. Frankly, I wonder sometimes why you do what you do and then I remember that you are changing young lives for the better. Not many of us can make that claim.

Your rewards for your efforts are unpaid furlough days, larger class sizes, no pay increases (but increased expenses) and a second-guessing public that seems to feel you should be able to stop all of society’s ills at the classroom door. And then there are the politicians who promote “school choice.” That “choice” doesn’t seem to include making public schools better but it does include making all the other choices more attractive.

I’m not sure what you have done to deserve such treatment. Much of it, I believe, comes from the fact the politicians don’t like the various associations that lobby for public education. They derisively call them “educrats.” This becomes an elephant fight and you tend to get trampled in the process and punished for something you haven’t done.

In addition to severely cutting state funding for public education, sometimes our intrepid public servants wander into La-La land. House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Alpharetta) claims you are the most highly-compensated teachers in the nation. She also claims that the moon is made of green cheese but that is a story for another day.

I assume Jones was trying to make her legislative colleagues feel better about themselves for taking such good financial care of you and to help her pass the charter school amendment. Maybe you could share your pay stubs with her.

You know my feelings about the charter school amendment. I am still waiting for someone to tell me why we should vote for it this fall. Proponents say the state needs this amendment to authorize state charter schools. What they don’t tell you is the State Board of Education has approved 13 charter schools in a year. So, where is the need?

This isn’t about charter schools. It is about letting for-profit charter school management companies get their foot in the door whether your local school system likes it or not. The irony shouldn’t be lost on you that Gov. Nathan Deal signed the charter school amendment bill in Cherokee County, home of Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), not exactly the best friend of public education in the state.

You should know also that the governor, Mr. Rogers, and Jan Jones all received campaign contributions from Florida-based Charter Schools USA, the group that had their petition to operate a facility in Cherokee County turned down by the local school board.

I doubt Gov. Deal loses sleep over my opinions but if his image polishers are reading this, I consider signing the bill in Cherokee County a cheap shot at the Cherokee school system, one of the best in the state. Plus, the event exhibited regal indifference to our growing suspicions as voters that campaign contributions do indeed influence political decisions.

I have serious skin in this game. Four members of my family are public school teachers. My son and my son-in-law have been in the classroom long enough to roll with the punches. Nothing much surprises them anymore. But, now I have two grandchildren who have completed their first year of teaching. Nick Wansley is a chemistry teacher and coach at South Forsyth Hill School and his wife, Mandy, teaches at Riverwatch Middle School, also in Forsyth County.

They are the future of public education in Georgia and I am extremely proud of the decision they made to be teachers. Obviously, they both could make more money and have fewer headaches in another profession, but they believe this to be a calling — and it is. The school teacher was one of our community’s most respected professionals when I was growing up. That was before government at all levels got involved and made a mess of things.

Now our legislative leaders cozy up to Washington think tanks and for-profit charter school management groups and preach “school choice.” It would be nice if they would deign to help you fix the problems in public education, not run away from them. I have no confidence the current crop in power will do that but they need to know — and you need to know — that I appreciate all you do and I’m not going away. I pray you don’t, either. We’ve just begun to fight.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
Comments
(49)
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JohnGaltYouKnow
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May 30, 2012
Public (Government) Schools are a failure. Private free enterprise schools are the only choice for the future.

We need teachers and staff that can be held accountable for the results.

Maatf
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May 24, 2012
Thank you for your support of our public schools and our public school teachers. Please keep letting people know how our state government is undercutting local control of schools and failing to provide adequate tax support - what do they owe Cobb by now? something like $350 million for underfunding over the last ten years.

We don't need state control over local schools
Don Nelson
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May 24, 2012
Unfortunately, our current system of public education funded by prop. taxes is antiquated and has been for years, it is only now with a deep recession that it is exposed. As a former educator and a proponent for upgrading our education, I favor Charter Schools as another choice to offer our children, and to be truthful, I think in the not to distant future, the days of public education as we know them will be a distant memory. Privatization or a public-private partnership fundeded not by taxes is a most realistic option, where schools are returned to local control, teachers are handsomely rewarded for achievement and for excellence especially in math & science. Truth be told, we are rapidly falling behind the world in core curriculum, our focus must be to change to systems that provide meaningful skills for the students in the future, skills that are transferable, but most of all promote a lost skill, problem solving. We either change and improve or we will destine our children to a future unlike we have known.
Ostrich Mentality
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May 24, 2012
You are one fine spokesman for public education. Keep it up. Give all your teacher pals a group hug.

The truth will out.

You must really enjoy life.
To Ostrich
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May 24, 2012
"The truth will out" you as a narrow minded individual. We really do enjoy life, thanks and may God bless you!
To Ostrich
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May 24, 2012
Religion is the biggest sociological experiment EVER! You are actually paying $25K to have your kids undergo psychological experimentation. You said yourself "we" are the "freethinkers". You and your kids can stay brainwashed and me and my kids will stick to the facts.
Ostrich Mentaltity
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May 24, 2012
I read the article, and found it singularly unpersuasive. I can separate wheat from chaff, and also rely on other sources of information beside a singular opinion column where the author is undeniably vested in his preordained position.

I shell out over $25k annually for private (Christian at that, so go ahead and flail away at this "bigot" in addition to your gratuitous, impotent and engage' "Fox News" bromide--funny how "free thinkers" are the first to stereotype and demean, albeit ineffectually) education for my 2 girls, not because I wouldn't rather spend it on some indulgence, but because my children are not the subjects of some trendy sociological experiment.

You are free to do whatever you want with your children. Good luck.

School Teacher
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May 24, 2012
@ Ostrich Mentaltity, your nom de plume was well chosen! BTW, mentality is correctly spelled mentality.
Easy Now
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May 24, 2012
Don't hate on preordained positions. Didn't Jesus have one too? A bromide is a phrase or platitude that, having been employed excessively, suggests insincerity or a lack of originality in the speaker employing it. I haven't used it excessively yet. FOX NEWS. There, that last one should make a bromide.
Susie Q
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May 24, 2012
To all the public school teachers out there who now have an even higher opinion of themselves after reading this article, please know that there are just as many who think the opposite about the job you do for our kids.
Nice One
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May 24, 2012
Like
southsi
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May 27, 2012
thanks for your support. (sarcasm intended)
Get Real
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May 24, 2012
I have known four people in my life that all admitted to me the main reason they became a teacher was to get the summers off! I know all techers don't feel this way but c'mon public education nowadays is not as good as was twenty or thirty years ago.
Kennesaw Resident
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May 24, 2012
That may be the reason they became a teacher, but rest assured that is not the reason they stayed. It is certainly not an easy job!
Cherokee SD
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May 23, 2012
Cherokee County School District...award winning....you know that little white speck on top of chicken poop? Well, that little white speck is chicken poop too.

I love my kids teachers though, and appreciate everything they do. It is the administrations and BOEs that can all find a one way ticket to Haiti for all I care. Instead of trying to work together with EVERYONE, Cherokee BOE and Mr. P have done everything possible to polarize their employees and pit neighbor against neighbor.
30-year Cobb Teacher
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May 23, 2012
Thank you for clearing the smoke screen and telling the truth about teaching. Every year, teaching should have gotten easier. Instead,teaching became harder because I continued to care about kids and fought vigorously to hold onto my ethics and values.
Jane W.
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May 23, 2012
Curious about why legislators (among others) might distrust teacher unions? Do a Google search on "NEA" and "donations" to see how the largest teachers' union (CCAE/GAE locally) spends its money.

Then rent the film "Waiting for Superman" to see what real school reformers are up against.
Superman is Dead
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May 23, 2012
Google the Larry Strauss article "The Uncomfortable Truth About Charter Schools" and relax: NEA donates huge to both parties who are only to willing to rape teachers. Lastly, NONE of you need to worry about NEA in Georgia. We're a "right ot work" state and teachers here have about as much luck with collective bargaining as North Koreans do!
total view
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May 23, 2012
Any mention of teachers unions in the state of GA is uninformed. We do not have a teachers union here and therefore it has no affect on our county decision.

As far as waiting for superman goes....while I enjoyed the film, it spoke more to me about how much more we could do as a school if our new primary role wasn't as babysitter. Ask those famililes what happens if their kids don't behave at those charter schools they so anxiously wait to get into...their rear ends get shipped out and the next in line comes in. If my school could take only the 10% of our student population that we wanted then our scores and academic achievements would sky rocket.
Jane W.
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May 24, 2012
@Dead: Who are you kidding ... that "the NEA contributes huge to both parties?"

Readers are invited to Google "NEA" and "donations" and find even a single Republican or independent in that union's list of top campaign money beneficiaries.

@total: Right on its own website the NEA confirms it's a union. Google "NEA" and "union" to see it.

He really is dead
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May 24, 2012
WRONG. NEA's website says that they spent $8.5 million on republican political contributions in 2010. Now is this smaller than what they spent on democratic candidates? Sure. BUT...it's over EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS and trust me for that kind of money the republicans too will trash teachers. If you think the GOP is exempt from the attack on teaching you have never heard of ALEC or Bobby Jindal!
Don H.
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May 24, 2012
@Dead -- The NEA is a union. It has only endorsed Democrats for U.S. President or Georgia Governor. Never once has it endorsed a Republican or independent for either position.

Not even once.
@Jane AKA Right Wing
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May 27, 2012
Jane why so much anger toward teachers? Every comment you make in the MDJ is about teacher unions. Where is your buddy Ron Gooden - you know he is a paid copy writer for the Koch Brothers Group -Americans for Prosperity? Are you?

Listen very carefully Jane there are no teacher unions in Georgia. A union has collective bargaining with the employer. Public Employee Unions in Georgia are against the law. The Teacher Associations in Georgia are no different than the Georgia Bar Association, AARP, Nurses Association, etc. PAGE & GAE are teachers associations with GAE affiliated with the NEA. The part of the dues that go to the NEA are used for lobbying at the National Level. PAGE's dues go to the local level. Both are powerless in Georgia (that's why I don't belong to one).

I ask you what about all of the For Profit School Lobbyist, and Michelle Rhee pandering her BS to the legislator's? They are doing the same thing as the teacher associations, unions etc. Just because you don't agree with one side does not mean you need to demonize them. An agenda is an agenda.

According to your thinking teachers should not be allowed to belong to an association? Are teachers not covered by the same Constitution you are? The Extreme RIght is no better than the Extreme Left. Both are looney, so find someone else to blame for society's ills.

You must have some bad history with a teacher that you are still carrying. Maybe you are a former teacher who could not cut it in the classroom . I'm sorry you are such a pitiful angry person. Teacher's in this miserable state are not the cause of what's wrong with our society like Mr. Yarbrough state's so well in his column.

I suggest you take your right wing Fox News/ Koch brothers talking points and march off into the sunset.

By the way to all you teacher haters out there like Jane and Susie Q. if you are so damn smart why don't you become a teacher instead of sitting around spewing forth you BS. You gutless wonders would last about one hour in a public school.

Sincerely,

A Really Pissed off Teacher
@Don H.
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May 27, 2012
I bet your are the same tool that comments on the AJC Get Schooled Blog. Wow you are one piece of work.

You and Jane W. should get together and go to some Koch Brothers meetings aka the Brown Shirts and bash teachers all you want.

I have found that most men, like you and Neil Boortz, who constantly bash teachers usually have a problem with women. Usually they are momma's boys or they can get a date. I guess rejection hurts your feelings Don.

I'm sure there are associations for guys like you who need help relating to women.

Keep up the goose stepping Don in your Jackboots give my regards to David and Charles Koch at the party HQ.
EduKtr
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May 23, 2012
Dick -- your teachers' union bonus check is in the mail!
anonymous
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May 23, 2012
There are a few things that bother me. You my choose to continue reading, or move away from my comment and just assume that it is biased. Things that bother me are stereotyping, people saying "shut up," or even "Shhhh.," and people who try to be funny, but can't get their point across. In your attempt to make a point, you fall flat. The are ARE NO teacher's unions in Georgia. I've said enough.
EduKtr
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May 24, 2012
All Georgia Association of Educators members pay $168 extra yearly to belong to the National Education Association.

Do a Google search on "NEA" and "union" and get educated.
RIGHT TO WORK!
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May 24, 2012
Hey -I can send money to Pyongyang along with my GAE money too but it DOESN'T LET ME VOTE FOR NORTH KOREA'S NEXT HEAD OF STATE! Sheesh, we are a right to work state and Deal is going to do what he wants even if that means breaking the law. QBE anyone????
Don H.
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May 24, 2012
In addition to bankrolling liberal Democrats and leftist social causes, the NEA union bosses are now wasting your money trying to unseat Wisconsin's Governor Walker. Just as their union buddies are over at the Teamsters.

And I'll take Gov. Jindal's values over Nancy Pelosi's any day!
@Don H.
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May 25, 2012
And what should a republican teacher do? Just roll over and take it? God knows we hate Pelosi but you know if it was your profession under attack you'd be raging against the machine too! You are in love with Jindal's "values" but do you know what he intends to do via ALEC? Have you spoken with unbiased parties on both sides to hear how it will directly impact student achievement? We all agree you can't just keep throwing money at education. We just want the public to realize that students success isn't 100% directly linked to the teacher's performance. We want politicians to realize that there are some external factors at work to BEFORE they decide our pay should be 100% linked to test scores. And before everyone starts posting rants in response our district ended on the 18th and I am done with post planning NOT posting at work!
Cobb Taxpayer
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May 23, 2012
Nice to see a journalist, with the power of the pin and placement in print, has something good and worthy to say about public education - just maybe the elected leaders of non public education need to be replaced with those who understand and appeciate the needs and challenges of public education.
Bert Lee
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May 23, 2012
Thanks Dick!
to ostrich
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May 23, 2012
You obviously did not read the article. He explained why private schools and charter schools are booming...because politicians dictate too much about public schools and have caused the declining mess we see not only in education but in our country. Then, people like you only take in 1/2 the information and twist it into nonsense fiction like FOX news and spout off to prove your ignorance.
Ostrich Mentality
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May 23, 2012
If public school and its teachers are so swell, why has there been an explosion in private schools (a serious cost commitment for families)and home schooling (a serious time commitment for families)? Public schools and pampered teachers (some of the lowest performing of college students) rightly fear and do everything they can to impede the competition of charter schools. Johnny can't read because his teacher barely can. Witness the social studies teacher in Salisbury, NC who threatens arrest for those who criticize Obama.
Boyd Crowder
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May 23, 2012
Thank you for judging ALL teachers based on the actions of one. I intend to judge all leaders based on the actions of Hitler, all whites on the actions of Ted Bundy, all blacks on the actions of Wayne Williams, all Asians on the actions of Pol Pot, all clowns on the actions John Wayne Gacy, all Muslims on the actions of Osama Bin Laden, all Christians on the actions of Jim Jones, oh...and please let me know what you are so I can judge all of your peers by the actions of YOU!
bitter much?
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May 23, 2012
I'm sorry, but I can read very well. My Master's Degree from GSU wasn't something any ol' idiot could earn, let alone with almost a 4.0 GPA. If you want to be bitter blame the system NOT the teachers. Most of the time little Johnny can't read because the system pushed him through when he wasn't ready for the next grade level. When you can only fail kids once in Elementary and Middle School what do you expect? Even when teachers suggest retaining younger children the parents can say no and have Johnny promoted to the next grade level and guess what he keeps falling further and further behind.

As far as your comment about the nut job teachers in NC, it is sad that a few individuals make us all look bad. I pride myself in teaching kids to value opposing opinions, be open minded, and god forbid think for themselves. It made my year when about half of my kids made me thank you cards telling me because I pushed them they pushed themselves, feel better prepared for college, learned how to really write essays and take tests, opened their minds, etc...

I love my kids and I love teaching, but the system makes me so mad because the educational bureacrats don't care about us or the students. Most of the educrats haven't even been teachers or it's been so long since they were in a classroom they are out of touch. It is like a Dentist telling a Heart Surgeon how to do their job. I really hope that you can open your mind to the fact that there are good teachers still out there in the public schools.
COBBER 43
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May 24, 2012
Public school teachers rarely get the opportunity to be teachers anymore. The vast majority of parents look at the school as an 8 hour baby sitter and not an institution that was built for the purpose of educating the youth. The reason charter schools are so sought after is because those parents either want or are lucky enough to be in a position to WANT their children educated and can get them to the school. Education starts at home even if it is only preparing your child with the correct attitude of what the intended purpose of school actually is for. Although I am not a teacher, (actually a policeman), I can't tell you how frequently people have said to me, "I wouldn't have your job." I for one would never want the job of a teacher. It is thankless. Teachers have lost the general support of thier administrators that are worried about being sued by the parents that just don't get involved or only communicate with the teacher when their, "angel", was misunderstood or couldn't have possibly done what they said. I realize there are some teachers that are not good educators but I think that is the exception and not the norm. I doubt any of them decided to teach because of the money they thought they would make. I appreciate the teachers I had and in fact would say some of my high school teachers were as good or better than my college professors.
GAreadingteacher
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May 23, 2012
Thank you for your support! It is nice knowing that someone is on our side. As a Georgia elementary school teacher I am not only having to deal with furlough days for the past few years, larger class sizes and now a school closing. Somedays I too wonder why I am doing what I am doing especially when I read an artcle that discounts the teaching profession. Then I enter the classroom each day and look into the faces I teach and I know why I do what I do.

Phillip W
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May 23, 2012
Great job Mr. Yarbrough. My state legislator tolde me that he's walked in my shoes because he spent 1 day in a school. Really - one day? Spend a month and then come back and tell me what is the state of public education. Thanks for your defense of this business.
Bill W
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May 23, 2012
Then you also have teachers like the one in North Carolina that won't allow any student to express an opposing voice to Obama. Not all of the them are changing young lives for the better.
Boyd Crowder
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May 23, 2012
Thank you for judging ALL teachers based on the actions of one. I intend to judge all leaders based on the actions of Hitler, all whites on the actions of Ted Bundy, all blacks on the actions of Wayne Williams, all Asians on the actions of Pol Pot, all clowns on the actions John Wayne Gacy, all Muslims on the action of Osama Bin Laden, all Christians on the actions of Jim Jones, oh...and please let me know what you are so I can judge all of your peers by the actions of YOU!
Really Bill??
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May 23, 2012
Every profession has people who aren't upstanding citizens.
Too funny
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May 25, 2012
Nice use of the Fallacy of Insufficient Sample
Will Fight With You
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May 23, 2012
Wow! Thank you!!! Well written/said!!! Your last two sentences sealed it for me. I often have to remind myself that teaching is truly a calling and remember that moment that I realized this was the perfect fit for me—some days it’s hard. I think that I will stay and fight. However, I must admit that lately I have thought about running for the hills. I’m praying for a “change for the better” because I have another twenty years before I can even think about retiring.Once again--THANK YOU!!!
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