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Mailbag: Don't blame teachers, union

May 29, 2010

I'd like to respond to Ken Beall's letter blaming the teachers union for the current situation in the Glendale Unified School District (Teachers union should feel cuts too," March 11).

Beall states: "I have written that teachers are among the last bastion of noble professionals, and many are underpaid. But that does not mean that all teachers are effective . . . The teachers union pretty much guarantees the teacher's safety, unlike the rest of us, who are promoted or discharged contingent upon our performance."

He appears to be advocating for three of the current "reforms" that education critics support — elimination of teacher seniority, dissolving the collective bargaining rights of teachers and establishing pay for performance (merit pay).

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All of these so-called "solutions" would ultimately result in a weakened teaching force.

"Expensive" 20-year veterans like me could be eliminated in favor of young, enthusiastic but inexperienced Teach for America interns who could be paid much less and worked harder, but would leave the job after a year or two.

How would this strengthen the teaching profession, or honor teachers for the art and science of those who see what we do as life's work?

Merit pay would be too expensive to truly implement and would result in teacher competition, although teacher collaboration has been proven more effective in improving student learning. No single teaching style works for every student, and we need to encourage teachers to share their best practices.

Beall also complains that "nearly a quarter of district employees have 100% PPO for them and their families, with full dental and optical included and death benefits. How about an HMO (like the rest of us) for the next five years with a deductible from your own pocket?"

Well, Beall, I am one of the many Glendale Unified employees on an individual HMO, even though I have a family. If I want to see a specialist or chiropractor, I pay for it. My colleagues on the PPO have out-of-pocket deductibles.

You are misinformed if you think they have a free ride. And as a proud member of Glendale Teachers Assn., I do not begrudge them their health care. A healthy teacher saves the district money by having the energy to be effective in the classroom.

Beall, I thank you for your support of teachers, but I would like to remind you that "the union" is teachers. We fought hard for benefits and protections that would allow us to teach for a middle-class living. Not one of my colleagues will get rich teaching, and that's a shame, because they are awe-inspiring heroes who do amazing work every day.

But none of us got into this profession to get rich; we teach because we love it.

JENNIFER WATERS

Pasadena

Editor's note: Waters is a teacher at Crescenta Valley High School.

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