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.

And, generally, teachers get second jobs in the summer.  It may be selling Pampered Chef products, coaching summer basketball, teaching summer school or tutoring at Sylvan Learning Center...but whatever it is, it's because the wage they earn in the 180 days they get paid for is not sufficient to support their family.

Teachers have chosen this job knowing that these sacrifices would need to be made.  They knew what they were getting in to.  But that doesn't mean that the state has the right to take advantage of their service.

 

4.  On top of not getting paid enough, they are also required to take more college level courses and obtain their Professional Certificate within five to seven years of their first year of teaching.  This program is expensive and teachers are expected to obtain more loans to pay for it or pay for it out of pocket {which they cannot afford to do}.  They have to take classes at nights and on the weekends which stretch them even thinner than they are already stretched and make it very difficult on their families.  This program is also a joke and does not improve teaching or prove anyone is a decent, quality teacher.  It is a very expensive state-mandated hoop to jump through that makes a teacher's job much more difficult.  I recognize the need for continuing education and improvement, but this program is not achieving that goal.

 

5.  While teachers get paid for 7 hours a day for 180 days per year {plus mandatory training days}, the amount of work they put in far exceeds this.  The time they spend prepping their classrooms, writing lessons, reworking curriculum, collaborating with other teachers, attending summer workshops and volunteering at school events is not included in contracted pay.  Not to mention the amount of personal funds they use stocking their classrooms with supplies, providing shoes and clothing for students in need and making sure their students are properly fed.

 

6.  "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."  Yes, you pay taxes so teachers can get paid.  How does this make you more superior?  Teachers pay those taxes too.  And they educate, love, protect and shape your children.  You should be thanking them, not shaming them for choosing a profession you appear to deem as inferior to your own.

 

7.  "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."  Possibly our system is plummeting because it's not being fully funded.  Or because teachers are not valued.  Or because you hold teachers to standards you do not understand.  Or because our families are breaking down and kids come into the system already broken, traumatized and hurting so teachers must not only teach, but also be mothers, fathers, mentors, social workers and counselors to their ever increasing number of students.

Maybe, just maybe, the fact that you are refusing cost of living increases will mean that those amazing teachers who love kids and change lives will not be able to afford to continue teaching and we will lose them to the business world.

 

8.  I agree that unions do just as much harm as good.  They make it impossible to get rid of terrible teachers, teachers who are burned out and teachers that refuse to do more than the bare minimum.  However, those unions exist because they feel the need to protect teachers from being taken advantage of.  Maybe there is a way you, as legislators, can care for teachers so they don't feel the need to be protected.  Maybe you should be their advocates.

 

9.  "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."  In this statement you insinuate that being a great teacher and being a teacher who are dissatisfied with wage are mutually exclusive.  There are many great, inspiring teachers out there that are greatly dissatisfied with their wage.  Being dissatisfied does not mean they are not exceptional teachers.  This sounds like you are trying to shame the dissatisfied teachers by insinuating that if they were great teachers who loved their jobs, they would be satisfied with a low wage.  That is either a very underhanded way of manipulation, or a very out-of-touch and uneducated opinion.

 

10.   "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."  Find me a person from the private sector who doesn't complain about their wage and I'll find you a rich man or a liar  {or maybe a clergyman...they seem to trust God to provide for them}.

 

11.  You seem to idealize the private sector.  But the private sector would be full of ignorant and uneducated people if it weren't for the teachers that taught them how to do all of the things they do.  I am grateful that they are so brilliant and self reliant.  But they would just be illiterate and incompetent without the education that got them there.  Education brought to them by...teachers.

 

12.  "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."  This is true.  And in situation like these, it becomes clear what a legislator's priorities are.  Yours, obviously, is not teachers.

 

13.  I realize you want smaller government.  But if you value education like I hope someone on the House Education Committee would, you need to realize that the changes you want to see in our education results are a direct result of what you are willing to put in to the system.  You cannot require more but provide less.  Teachers cannot be expected to reach higher standards, but be told that they are not worthy of getting raises.  You are looking at things backwards.  You say that they need to earn raises with better performance.  But their performance has already earned it and you refuse to pay.  Every year they have been taking pay cuts.  Not remaining static...taking cuts.  Every year.  There have been layoffs and cut backs.  Every year.  And now you say teachers don't deserve cost of living increases.  You are creating a sorry state of affairs in Washington State Education.  I hope if this is something you are sticking by, you are willing to also claim responsibility for the mess it will create.

 

14.  No one has the right to state how easy or difficult a job is until they do it.  So until you spend 180 days in a classroom with the education and success of 25 or 30 students resting solely in your lap, please refrain from stating how great it must be to get summers off.  You have no idea what teachers endure, what they sacrifice, what they give up to do this amazing and honorable job.

 

Sincerely,

Heidi Rush

Mother of public education students

Wife of an educator

Voter

Tax Payer

 

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I usually don't get this political in blog posts.  I try to keep it a neutral zone.  But I am who I am and I could not stay silent about this.  I've been married to an educator for 12 years and I have seen his dedication, along with hundreds of others, striving to give kids the chance to be successful in life and find their way.  Rep. Pike's letter was extremely petty, disrespectful and misguided.  And, let's be honest, Facebook was not the appropriate place to post it.

Does Representative Pike's Open Letter to Public Educators infuriate you as it did me?  Let her colleagues know.  No matter what side of the budget debate you land on, disrespecting teachers like that is unacceptable.

Contact the House Education Committee to let them know that you value the teachers in your life.  Let them know that Representative Pike's letter was unprofessional.  Let them know that you expect better from our government.

Email Rep. Liz Pike: liz.pike@leg.wa.gov

Email Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, Ranking Minority Member of the House Education Committee:  cathy.dahlquist@leg.wa.gov

Email Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, Chair, House Education Committee: santos.sharontomiko@leg.wa.gov

More of a phone person?  Call the office of a member of the Education Committee and let your voice be heard.

Washington State House Education Committee Members

RepresentativeRoomPhone
Santos, Sharon Tomiko (D) ChairJLOB 321(360) 786-7944
Stonier, Monica (D) Vice ChairJLOB 309(360) 786-7994
Dahlquist, Cathy (R) *JLOB 426(360) 786-7846
Magendanz, Chad (R) **JLOB 427(360) 786-7876
Bergquist, Steve (D)JLOB 322(360) 786-7862
Fagan, Susan (R)JLOB 406(360) 786-7942
Haigh, Kathy (D)JLOB 320(360) 786-7966
Hargrove, Mark (R)JLOB 409(360) 786-7918
Hawkins, Brad (R)LEG 122G(360) 786-7832
Hayes, Dave (R)JLOB 467(360) 786-7914
Hunt, Sam (D)LEG 438B(360) 786-7992
Klippert, Brad (R)JLOB 410(360) 786-7882
Lytton, Kristine (D)JLOB 310(360) 786-7800
Maxwell, Marcie (D)JLOB 327(360) 786-7894
McCoy, John (D)LEG 132A(360) 786-7864
Orwall, Tina (D)JLOB 326(360) 786-7834
Parker, Kevin (R)JLOB 421(360) 786-7922
Pike, Liz (R)LEG 122B(360) 786-7812
Pollet, Gerry (D)JLOB 317(360) 786-7886
Seaquist, Larry (D)LEG 132C(360) 786-7802

Warnick, Judy (R)

LEG 122C

(360) 786-7932

 

 

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