Response to Representative Liz Pike

Heidi blogs regularly at My Beautiful Mess. 

 

Recently a Facebook post by a local legislator has garnered quite the attention.  Representative Liz Pike, who serves on the Washington State House Education Committee recently posted an open letter to public educators on her personal Facebook page.

The state legislature is in their second special session, attempting to come to an agreement on budgetary issues related to the Supreme Court mandate to fully fund the K-12 public education system.  Representative Pike has been receiving a lot of emails from teachers about cost of living wage increases.  Here is what she had to say in response:

 

A life in the day of a WA State Representative...

I spent the morning answering emails from constituents. I receive a lot of emails from teachers complaining about their cost of living increases being suspended.

Here's an open letter to public educators!

Congratulations on enjoying your last day of the school year. If I had the opportunity to choose my career all over, I would have opted to get the necessary degree and teaching certificate so that I too could enjoy summertime off with my children, spring break vacations, christmas break vacations, paid holidays, a generous pension and health insurance benefits.

Instead, I chose to work a career in private sector business so that I could be one of those tax payers who funds your salaries and benefits as a state employee in a local school district.

First, let me be clear, thank you for your service to our schools. I hope you are one of the excellent instructors who is inspiring our children to reach their full intellectual potential and learn the value of true leadership in our community. I hope you are one of the brightest and best in your teaching profession who is willing to raise the bar in our public education system that unfortunately continues to plummet when compared to worldwide education standards. The big difference between the U.S. public education system and others in the world is that we have unions that only care about the adults in the system. Since the rise of teachers' unions in this nation, our public education system has deteriorated.

I always encourage folks to choose a job they love! If you are uninspired because of the lack of a cost of living increase, I encourage you to speak with your neighbors who work in the private sector. Ask them when was the last time they were guaranteed pay increases that were not based on performance standards. Furthermore, teachers who are dissatisfied with their pay and benefits should look for work elsewhere so that someone who is inspired to greatness can take their place in the classroom. Our children deserve an exceptional and inspired teacher in every classroom. Don't you agree?

If you look at all the possible things the state can do for its citizens, you will quickly realize there will never be enough money for all of the programs that some legislators want. Just like you and I do in our own household budgets, so must the legislature. For me, it's all about priorities and spending less money that the state takes in. If we do this, we will have a reserve for emergencies and economic downturns so that we can avoid raising yet more taxes.

I am a State Representative with core values in smaller, more efficient government, more personal responsibility and less reliance on government in our everyday lives. My positions were clearly stated in my year long campaign before I was elected and they should come as no surprise.

To every excellent teacher in Clark County. Thank you for the great work you are doing in our classrooms. Enjoy your summer!

Liz Pike
Washington State House of Representatives
18th Legislative District
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"

 

As you can probably guess, I have a few issues with what Representative Pike has written.  It has taken me a while to even sit down to write this because in my initial anger I wanted to write an equally snarky and sarcastic response.  But I let myself calm down so I could clearly and professionally make my points without lingering emotion {or, at least with less of it}.  Here are the main points I find issue with.

 

1.  Mrs. Pike, you are a professional.  You represent a large group of people in the state legislature.  Your letter, however, is anything but professional.  It is snide and sarcastic.  It takes low blows and pot shots.  And it says it all with a sly "Thanks for the great work you are doing!" and a smile - which not only makes you seem very immature, it is downright passive aggressive.

I should hope that as you address the very people you are making decisions for you would be able to conduct yourself with self-control, maturity and authenticity.  Your "Enjoy your summer!" is empty, hollow and fake after the comments you made about paid vacations {which I'll address also}.  Sarcasm may be acceptable in friendly conversation with people who know you and understand your intent, but it has no place in messages to your constituents.  The note you wrote was very, very unprofessional in it's tone and content.

 

2.  Stating, "If I had the opportunity to choose my career all over, I would have opted to get the necessary degree and teaching certificate so that I too could enjoy summertime off with my children, spring break vacations, christmas break vacations, paid holidays, a generous pension and health insurance benefits." is like saying that soldiers should consider themselves lucky because they get to travel the world for free or that firefighters have such an easy job because they get so many days off in a row.  If only we could be so lucky!  It is an uneducated and ignorant comment.

Educators work their tails off to provide a safe, encouraging, consistent learning environment for the next generation of leaders, politicians, mothers, artists, lawyers, innovators and world changers.  They give of themselves every hour of every day {in and out of the classroom}.  They are the reason you are who you are today.  They taught you about government, law, politics, social justice, public speaking, math, science and every other subject you use every day as you do this job that you think is so superior to theirs.  Shaping the leaders of our future is hard.  So is trying to do whatever you can to keep kids from falling through the cracks and ending up in jail.  They deserve every summer day they get to sleep in.  Period.  I don't think I need to argue this point as it is so glaringly obvious.

 

3.  Teachers are paid for the 180 days they are required to teach, and a few others in which they are required to attend trainings to make them better teachers.  They do not get paid for holidays, Christmas Break, Spring Break or any other break.  And the idea that teachers go on vacation over winter and spring breaks is misleading.  Most of them cannot take fancy vacations {especially if one parent chooses to stay home with the children}.  A teacher's family takes road trips to stay with extended family, because hotels are too expensive. They go tent camping because it's affordable.  Let's be realistic here...the word "vacation" is a stretch.  Teachers make a living wage, but they do not make a professional wage like someone in the private sector with an equal amount of education.

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