Sen. Peggy Lehner (R) is the first State Senator to respond substantively to our questions. Educators should take the opportunity to contact Sen. Lehner to discuss merit pay, as she appears open to constructive dialogue on that issue.
1. I support QUALITY in schools whether traditional public, community or private. If schools receive public dollars we have the right to demand that they provide a good education. I therefore support policies that hold schools accountable. I don't mind if new charters open up if I can have some assurances that they will be well run and can demonstrate effectiveness. If they fail to live up to those expectations they should be shut down. I hold traditional public schools to the same standards. Schools consistently in Academic Emergency should be reconstituted or shut down. I refuse to accept that some kids can't learn and therefore we should expect substandard results.
I do not support the charter provisions contained in the House version of the bill and will work aggressively to have them removed. For profit schools with little or no accountability are non starters in my book.
2. We know that the single most important factor in student achievement over which we have any control is the effectiveness of a teacher. ( We can't pick a students family). An ineffective teacher for one year can put a child behind several months...two or three in a row can be devastating. While I believe that 95% of teachers do their job very well unfortunately some of our most challenging students also are most likely to end up with the least effective teachers. This has to end. The seniority system allows inferior teachers to hang around far too long and robs the superintendent the ability to place teachers in the classrooms where they are most needed. It is not easy to evaluate teachers but frankly I wish teachers themselves would roll up their sleeves and help us figure out how to do it right. Several of my children are teachers. I grew up in a schoolhouse literally, as my mother was the headmistress and founder of a private school. I KNOW that you can tell a good teacher from a bad one...we just need to figure out the best way to assure we are using objective measurements. As I look for the best language to insert in the Senate I am seeking out the advice of educators, not my fellow legislators. Any teachers interested in helping with this critical challenge will be welcomed.
3. I am not at all happy about the cuts to education...nor am I happy about the cuts to nursing home, home health care, Help Me Grow, Mental health services, health care or any of the other items in this budget. However I also recognize that an $ 8 Billion budget deficit is monstrous. There simply is NO money. In order to fill this budget deficit through a tax increase we would need a 46% increase in income taxes or a three cent sales tax increase. Does anyone have the stomach for that?
I am desperately looking for some additional revenue and education will certainly be one of my priorities if I find any pots of gold but I am telling you this is REALLY tough.
Hope this helps...don't hesitate to contact me with any additional questions...and like I said I am always open to constructive input from teachers!