I am a teacher. This Sunday evening, instead of grading essays, I am reflecting on the “State of Colorado v.s. Public School Teachers”, also known as SB18-264 in the Colorado General Assembly.
The prime sponsors of this legislation are Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Paul Lundeen, both representing El Paso County. I’ll provide their contact information at the end of my reflection, in case you want to get in touch with them on your own.
I am saddened, but not surprised, that a minority are voicing ugly comments on newspaper websites and in chatrooms and on social media sites, like Twitter. These platforms are always a stage for righteous indignation, with or without facts and evidence. A passionate subject like Education is bound to draw out these voices. Consequently, my shock over these sentiments is minimal.
However, I am shocked, grief-stricken, and nauseous over the thought that Legislators in the Colorado General assembly are proposing felony charges, jail terms, massive fines, or both for public school teachers who “directly or indirectly induce, instigate, encourage, authorize, ratify, or participate in a strike against any public school employer”.
This is a slippery slope of perspectives, classist at best fascist at worst, on serious endemic problems that deserve Colorado’s most brilliant minds. We face a teacher shortage of troubling proportions. “An analysis of Colorado’s teacher shortage areas reveals problems resulting from a decline in interest (enrollment and completion in educator preparation programs), retention of existing teachers, and retirement of veteran teachers that has lead our state to recruit 50 percent of our educators from out-of-state (Colorado Department of Education, 2017).” *
We face a wave of violence in our schools that has persisted for more than two decades and become part of my normal understanding of what it is to teach in a classroom. After years of Legislative inaction, students on the other side of the trigger finally threw up their hands and screamed, “ENOUGH”.
They were heard. They are still being heard. Now teachers, hearing a call to action tied to legislation that affects their today and their tomorrow, are receiving ridicule, venom, and retaliation. There are many who deeply disrespect and distrust education in principle.
Teachers, who have now endured for years the snide, backhanded comments from people who grossly misunderstand the profession are facing a serious threat to dignity, livelihood, and freedom.
No matter your opinion on the challenges of our state pension, PERA, or on the relative arguments for and against active shooter drills, or whether it is better to have a bucket of rocks or a table barricade when the shooter arrives, or the myriad debates that envelop Education, you should throw down the gauntlet against SB18-264.
Colorado’s education system needs brilliant minds to help analyze the dangerous slope we are perched upon. Please use your most critical thinking to carefully comb over this proposed legislation. Solicit every opinion you can get from every stakeholder you can find. Make a point to really listen to every perspective. If the Colorado Legislature shuts off Colorado Public School Teachers’ voices, takes away their right to protest, and makes criminals out of them, our education system will sustain damage, possibly beyond repair. The people who know the most about the challenges of teaching in Colorado will be muzzled.
Silencing teachers who choose to express their professional opinions on the problems and solutions of this complex puzzle will collapse our system. I can guarantee, for one, I will leave the profession and actively advocate for everyone I know to avoid the public education as one avoids known poison. I won’t wait to be blighted and branded as a criminal in defense of my career. I have had dozens of such conversations with colleagues in this school year. I am not alone in these sentiments.
The sacrifices Teachers make every day, in capital, energy, and respect, are substantial. If you doubt it, please come spend a week in my classroom. I guarantee you will add to the depth of your experience in ways that will surprise you.
The daily derision, the jokes with lame punchlines, the ignorant comments, are all easy to brush off, but this assault on the rights of the public school Teachers of Colorado is impossible to ignore. I hope I am able to persuade you that your position on SB18-264 matters today, and it matters long into the future. It matters for teachers. It matters for students. It matters for the future economy and stability of Colorado.
If you care to embrace the challenges of public education and serve the families of Colorado with integrity and tenacity, I welcome your partnership. It takes a team. If you choose to accept this proposal without a fair examination of every possible consequence, then you have no business participating in the discussion. Consider your position on this issue carefully.
So, now to make myself extremely clear, before it is illegal for me to do so, THANK you to Dr. Gledich, for closing District 11 next Friday. Thank you fellow teachers. I SUPPORT, ENCOURAGE, and RATIFY your choice to speak loudly, clearly, and forcefully in defense of Colorado’s present and future. Way to go!
Jennifer Tarbox, D11 Teacher
- Senator Bob Gardner (R.) District 12, El Paso County
- Representative Paul Lundeen, (R.) District 19, El Paso County
- (303) 866-2924