Letters to the Editor 3/25/2003

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2003

Education needs to be first priority

Dear Editor:

No Child Left Behind!  A new day in Alabama? I love those ideas and support both wholeheartedly, but I know they have to be more than words. The sad reality however is that many children are going to be left behind.  Left behind because Alabama schools are not funded properly.  Left behind because schools are left with insufficient resources.  Left behind because for at least the next five years Alabama will only be able to hire teachers that feel that an education degree is the only one they are capable of attaining.  The political games that are being played in our state are causing our children to lose.

In Lawrence County, where I am employed, every untenured teacher is being cut at the end of the school year. Tenured teachers may be laid off because of a reduction in force. Other systems across the state face similar situations, many worse than ours.  Teachers in Alabama are already under paid and under appreciated.  And what is our state doing to aid the situation? Absolutely nothing. State politicians and state board employees say that we should wait until education hits rock bottom before we do anything.

Am I writing because I fear losing my job? Not as much as I'm writing because I fear the repercussions to our schools.  I'm a dedicated teacher and coach who passed up many promising career choices to help make a difference in education. One who truly tries to make a difference. One who tries desperately to convince good, smart, zealous high school and college students to enter the field of education to make it better. 

I can no longer try to persuade my students to make that choice.  I would be telling them to make an unwise career choice. For years the schools have been forced to take people who could do nothing else and put them in the classroom. All of our good educators know who they are.  They teach in the classroom across the hall from you or down the hall. In some cases they have worked their way into administrative positions and make unwise decisions that affect each of us.  These are the ones who become teachers so they can have summers off, be at home with their children, and leave every afternoon at 3:00. Not the ones that have a passion to make a difference.  People who can do more pass up the field of education because of the salary.  Our hard working, intelligent, dedicated young people turn away from education. And we wonder why in our state education is less than stellar! Look who's teaching.  And now in tough economic times we sound an even louder warning not to go into education.  There is no money, availability, raises, or job security. There is no incentive for going into education. And we think we aren't going to leave  children behind.  Citizens of Alabama must wake up. Education must become a higher priority before we leave most of students behind for a long time. 

Write your senator, legislator, and governor today. Tell them we must make education our first priority. When education becomes a priority in this state, many or our other problems will begin to diminish. Education truly does make a difference and it must be our first priority.

Heath Grimes