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It's wrong using third-graders for political objectives
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How would you view a teacher taking class time to have her third grade students write legislators to protest cuts to education and to raise the budget?

If you are the superintendent of Lee County Schools in North Carolina you'd think it was just fine and dandy as it was simply a writing exercise. A state representative didn't think it was appropriate. His daughter happened to be in the class. Her letter asked her father to "please raise the budget" and help keep two teacher assistants employed.

This is wrong on so many levels it isn't even funny.

First - and foremost - it is political indoctrination in the classroom. I get that most educators sincerely believe what they do is a calling. But school funding and state budgets are political issues. Do you think those third-graders were presented an opposing view other than from their teacher who one would assume most students at that age would almost idolize?

Perhaps the teacher did tell them if they didn't cut education that might mean they'd be less police to protect them from bad people or that firefighters might lose their jobs. Maybe the teacher told them that public swimming pools would have to close in the summer if there was more money given to education.

And - here's the biggie - isn't it really a set of "values" the specific writing exercise employed be reserved to parents to help shape?

It may surprise some teachers that parents can support education but not support turning a larger share of a state budget over to schools or even back additional taxes. In this case it is obvious the parent involved - North Carolina State Representative Mike Stone - clearly has a somewhat different set of values than the teacher has managed to inspire in her students regarding education funding.

Given that in almost every state pensions are a budget killer, do you think the fact that teacher pensions, their cost, and the impact they have on other public services were explained to the third-graders and what that would cost society overall? Is it fair that parks close and that taxes are raised just so select groups of people can have their publicly funded pensions left intact when we're in the middle of the worst economic malaise since the Great Depression?

Or perhaps the students were just told those two nice teaching assistants that help them would lose their jobs if the mean folks in the state Legislature didn't increase education funding.

I admit I'm a tad jaded about self-righteous educators.

A bond issue came up when I was in attending fourth grade at the old Mary Beermann School in the Western Placer Unified School District. I was in one of two classes held in old World War II quonset huts obtained as surplus from Beale Air Force Base.

A bond committee was running ads saying that if the bond didn't pass more and more kids would have to learn in the "deplorable" conditions of quonset huts. It was freezing in the winter and hotter than Hades in the early fall and spring. It is why they were the only two classrooms that had air conditioning. Each had a wall-mounted unit. One day after a field trip when Mrs. Hayward forgot to leave the air on, the temperature was 120 degrees inside forcing the class to spend the last two periods on the playground.

My mom, who was struggling as a widow trying to raise four kids, make the mortgage payment and working seven days a week - wasn't about to vote for the school bond. Her rejoinder was she didn't care if everyone had to learn in quonset huts, she couldn't afford an additional tax and she was a lot better off than many of her neighbors.

The bond did pass but just barely. And I'll be the first to admit the quonset hut classroom didn't stop me from learning that year. And as far as my mother was concerned, she was without a doubt one of the staunchest supporters of schools going as far as when she had extra money she gave it to school principals that had funds to help poorer kids buy school supplies and even clothing. Yes, Republicans do have hearts.

A few years later another bond issue came up. The superintendent had the Lincoln High business and typing classes spend two entire days addressing and stuff envelopes for the bond committee to send to voters.

He saw nothing wrong with that. As for me, let's just say it was one of the things that prompted me to run successfully for the school board as a 19-year-old just out of high school.

The second bond issue didn't pass. The administration blamed the failure in part on students who wrote the weekly Lincoln News messenger thinking it was an inappropriate use of class time.

It doesn't matter how noble the objective it doesn't justify using kids who are required to do what a teacher assigns them to obtain what is clearly a political objective whether it is working to pass a school bond or a political agenda at the State Capitol.

And whether teachers want to admit it or not school funding is as much about politics as it is reality.