Writing My Life

Now and Then

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… activists vs. REACTivists…

I’ve written about the current state of education – the state I live in because I am an educator. And I have to remind any new readers that education is in an upheaval for several reasons.

  1. the GREAT REcession
  2. education REform under  President Obama
  3. the WAR between the DISTRICTS that resulted in the SEcession of almost half of Jordan School District
  4. state budget cuts – results of #1 and a state law requiring a balanced budget

While I don’t plan to describe the above issues, suffice it to say (I  LIKE that cliche’) that the current Jordan School District was $30 million dollars short, and so lay-offs were announced and battle lines drawn. The Jordan Education Association leadership stand on the front lines, and many active members fill in the supporting rank and file. Sitting on the sidelines are less passionate/committed JEA members and teachers who do not support JEA through their membership.

Along the front lines, however, are other leaders standing shoulder to shoulder with teacher union members – parents, mostly mothers. One young mother, Jolynne Alger,  is every bit the leader that Robin Frodge, JEA president, is. This mom, a PTA mom, started a grass-roots effort via FaceBook among parents in Jordan School District to fight against the budget recommendations set forth by the school board. She didn’t do it by attacking board members. Instead, she recruited other like-minded parents and took the fight up to the hill and challenged legislators to help in the struggle. I saw her in front of cameras and seated on marble floors writing out memos to state representatives and senators.

Through combined efforts of teachers, parents, and union members, the legislator downsized the budget battle to a sizable skirmish. While long-term solutions were NOT addressed in the legislative session – state equalization for money to ALL Utah schools or equalization between the 2 districts involved, Canyons and Jordan – support to Jordan arrived in the form of a bill that allows diverting money from capital funding to general funding. That means that new buildings or repairs will have to be delayed so that about $14 million can spare teachers from being laid off and class sizes from being increased. VERY GOOD NEWS.

While my own job is still in jeopardy, I still marvel at individuals who jump into the fray – sometimes BEFORE it becomes a fray. While I am a card-carrying JEA member because technically, I am NOT an administrator but a teacher on special assignment, I do not jump into frays. I have a NON-confrontational personality that doesn’t mix well with picketing, shouting, and other “in-your-face” tactics that seem to be popular forms of communication. Nevertheless, I really admire those who stick their necks out for us ostriches. (Are you loving all my analogies and metaphors?)

While a few individuals see an injustice that hurts others, not necessarily themselve, they immediately join the fight against it. I, on the other hand wait until that thing lands on my front door and hurts me, and THEN I REact. I suppose that’s better than ignoring the elephant on the doorstep as some still do, but there are times I wish I’d grow more of a backbone or better support causes that INdirectly affect me.

But I did venture up to the capitol, wrote notes to legislators, talked with JEA leaders and parents, wrote letters and asked questions of the board. I also reflected and commented on the situation through this blog, and some who read my meanderings passed the posts onto others.

I guess what I’m saying is “THANK YOU” to those who charge forth to carry the banners.  Why? Because they are willing to invite controversy into their lives on a daily basis, sit down with criticism and debate the issues, live with angst as a constant companion, and in so doing they make a difference. I don’t always agree with some activists (especially those tea party folks) or their modus operandi, but I respect their willingness to stand up for their beliefs. In the meantime, I’ll fill in the ranks – maybe not on the front lines, but NOT on the sidelines either.