My One-Woman Boycott of OKC

 

 

It’s been three days since 60% of Oklahomans told teachers and kids we aren’t worth a penny.  We’re out of school today, and I’m still incredibly angry with the people of this state.

 

Spare me the comments that start out, “I’m all for teachers, but…”.  I think it’s a safe assumption that most of you looking for a “better” way will find yourselves too busy to visit the Capitol or nag your legislators when the session begins in February.  The few of you who follow up with the promise will soon realize your mistake when you find out what we’ve been up against for the past eight years.62864930-368-k339992

 

And now I see efforts on social media to try to make something positive out of this.  People are asking what they can do to make teachers feel appreciated.

 

Well, you know…a $5000 raise would have been a good start.

 

Folks, no amount of thank you notes, school supply drives, sonic gift cards, or 50% off Chili’s coupons are going to make us feel better.  (As if I could afford a nice place like Chili’s on my paltry teacher’s salary.)  We can’t send our kids to college, or even to piano lessons, solely on the satisfaction of a job well done.  Last time I checked, they don’t accept “fulfillment of a calling” as payment for my groceries.  Only cash, check, or charge.

 

We’ve been going about this all wrong.

 

We’ve been trying to play the game with integrity.  By promoting facts.  By trying to educate the general public on complicated issues like school finance.  By showcasing our teachers and celebrating our schools.

 

Well, I don’t know about you, friends, but I’m fresh out of rainbows and unicorns.  I’m in the mood for some good ole’ fashion come-uppance.

 

We know there was a huge push to convince Oklahomans to vote NO on 779 in the last two weeks leading up to the election.  They flooded the airwaves on radio and television with misleading commercials full of half-truths and outright inaccuracies concerning 779.  They deliberately misled the public, essentially tricking them into seeing a distorted view of the language in 779.   And not 48 hours after the election, the “Oklahoma Deserves Better” coalition, the anti-779 campaign, dismantled their Facebook page, and haven’t been heard from since.  So much for that “better” plan they never had any intention of pursuing (as if one existed at all).  “Oklahoma Deserves Better”, was smart about it, too.  They waited until the end of the campaign to form their organization officially because they won’t have to disclose their financial information to the ethics commission until Jan. 1st, thereby protecting their donors.

 

Well, I don’t plan to wait that long.

 

We know this push came largely out of OKC.  Sure, plenty of other municipalities voiced their opposition, feeling that one penny would be enough to convince people not to buy stuff and things anymore.  (insert eye roll emoji here).  Because asking people to pay an additional dollar for every hundred they spend is much more detrimental to business than a crumbling education system. But regardless of declarations by various chambers of commerce, the people with the money are the ones who moved the needle.  Are we really supposed to think they organized, raised funds, and produced all those commercials in just two weeks?  I don’t think so.  A number of reliable sources have led me to believe that most of the money was raised by and/or came from Oklahoma City.  And the entire effort was largely backed and promoted by the Greater OKC Chamber, no doubt to protect their interests in promoting their own penny sales tax, MAPS.

 

So, I plan to boycott OKC.

 

I pledge to do my best not to spend any money in OKC city limits.  I won’t buy a single sack of groceries, or a drop of gasoline there.  I won’t fill a single prescription there.  Not a single haircut, oil change, or gym membership.  I won’t buy a single Christmas present at Penn Square Mall, or any other retailer.  I don’t care how many triple-doubles Westbrook throws up, I won’t attend a single Thunder event, or even purchase one item of merchandise (especially since it is rumored Clay Bennett was one of the masterminds behind anti-779 propaganda).  I will not eat in Bricktown.  I won’t visit the museums, the civic center, or the movie theaters.  I will not attend one concert there, nor will I buy one ounce of full-strength beer or wine.  Not in a bar, a convenience store, or a liquor store.

 

They don’t think I’m worth a penny?  Fine.  I won’t spend a cent there either.

 

Not.  One.  Penny.

 

Will OKC miss the tax revenue from my paltry teacher pay?  No.  But at least it’s good for a half-hearted laugh to imagine me, a one-woman protest, picketing Thunder games with signs that read, “Clay Bennett HATES TEACHERS”.

 

Nah.  It would take more than just me to make this a real movement.

 

And right now, the only things inspiring me are these:

Oklahoma Legislator pay:  15th in the nation
Oklahoma Teacher pay:  50th in the nation

My Oklahoma Teacher Salary with a master’s and 10 years’ experience:  $36, 500.

My potential salary moving to any of the several dozen districts in the Dallas Metroplex:  $55,000 plus.

NO SQ790

I’m going to switch gears for a few minutes and talk about something that, at first glance, seems unrelated to education.

 

I am a pastor’s wife.  I am a cradle Methodist.  I am a Christian.

file-oct-30-7-37-31-pm

My family pausing for a photo before Christmas Eve service, 2014

And I stand AGAINST state question 790.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with SQ790, it is a question to repeal the “Blaine Amendment”.  If SQ790 passes, it would strike language from our constitution that expressly prohibits public money from being spent for religious purposes.

 

Proponents of SQ790 claim it is about restoring the Ten Commandments monument to the state capitol.  Currently, it resides at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, less than a mile from the Capitol lawn.

 

But I’m afraid it’s about so much more than that.  Changing our constitution to allow public tax dollars to be spent for religious purposes would bring about two consequences that disturb me.  First of all, it would make us vulnerable to costly litigation as we would be (once again) attempting to establish a law at the state level that is clearly unconstitutional at the national level.  freedom-of-religion-400wSecondly, this would open the door to vouchers, a long-time agenda of right-wing conservatives that allows education funding to be siphoned off to for-profit charter and private schools, further crippling already financially strapped public schools.

 

Proponents of SQ790 claim it is an attempt to protect religious liberty:

“Like the ‘Jim Crow’ laws that promoted segregation, the Blaine Amendment is a discriminatory provision in our Constitution that flies in the face of many of the Oklahoma values we cherish – love of neighbor, reverence for humanity and respect for the right to express religious freedom.”

~U.S. Senator James Lankford and Lt. Governor of Oklahoma Todd Lamb

 

Friends, if you are comparing the “persecution” of American Christians in the buckle of the Bible Belt to the persecution of African Americans in pre-1964 America (and even today), then you are clearly delusional.  If you assign equal weight to being unable to blast a prayer over the loudspeaker before Friday night football to black citizens being denied basic civil rights and murdered, then you need to seriously consider the true definition of “persecution”.

 

In what way does the absence of a ten commandments monument from the capitol keep you from practicing its tenets?

 

Furthermore, if you believe in God and think God is not present in public schools because we don’t force students to pray or attend chapel, then you need to take a good long look at what kids and teachers are doing in our schools.

 

Last year, the students at my school raised over $50,000 for a community family battling childhood cancer.

 

The second week of this school year, the students raised over $6000 for the Susan G. Komen foundation.  And perhaps more profound, they honored our principal with a standing ovation at that assembly, which happened to be on the day she completed her final radiation treatment for breast cancer.

 

Students in our leadership class spend time tutoring at our surrounding elementary schools.  Students in our Key Club and National Honor Society complete community service projects.  My students show great compassion for those who are different from them.  They celebrate each other.  They comfort each other.  They challenge each other.  They affirm each other.

 

If you are a Christian, then you already know Christ’s greatest commandment:  Love God and love your neighbor.  And by committing to the latter, we are fulfilling the former.  If we are practicing radical hospitality and love, God is here.  No “Bible-thumping” necessary.  In fact, you don’t have to open a Bible or even quote a scripture to fulfill God’s calling to love and serve your fellow man.  Do you not believe if you go out of your way to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the needy that God will show up and speak for God’s self?

 

God is very much alive in the spirit of service and love that exists in our schools today.  I firmly believe it.

 

Which makes me question the true motives of those who stand behind SQ790.  At best, it’s unnecessary.  We already have religious liberty.  And at worst, it’s a smokescreen for some other agenda, which I don’t trust.

 

#electoklaed

Just two weeks from tonight, we’ll be watching election results roll in.

 

Teachers will be watching with bated breath, wondering if the night will end with perusing houses in Plano on Zillow.

 

The good news is, support for SQ779 has been steady and consistent.  Despite the barrage of anti-public ed fodder from our friends at the Oklahoman Editorial Board (who published no less than SEVEN articles against 779 last summer—seriously…I stopped counting), the people of Oklahoma seem to be on the same page:  it’s not an ideal solution, but our legislators left us no choice.  We’re hemorrhaging teachers to every surrounding state.  And that warrants emergency measures.

 

I could be wrong, or perhaps buried under the work of operating a secondary vocal music program, but I’m surprised at the lack of campaigning against 779 by its detractors. I’m not an optimist by any stretch of the imagination (shocking, eh?), but I take that as a good sign.  I expected to be bombarded with propaganda somehow painting teachers as greedy moochers and miraculously linking passage of 779 to the opening of the hellmouth. I think those against 779 realize it’s a lost cause.  Turns out Oklahomans aren’t okay with mortgaging their children’s futures while the state financial situation continues to spiral downward.

 

Don’t make a liar out of me Oklahomans.

 

But despite the previous 222 words, this post is about a different item on your ballot.  One that could affect infinitely more change for students and teachers in Oklahoma—one way or the other—than passing SQ779.  I’m talking about your vote for state legislators.

 

After years of pleading with legislators to listen to the concerns of constituents instead of bending to the will of out-of-state interests, we’ve finally taken matters into our own hands.  This election saw a slew of declarations for candidacy unlike anything we’ve seen since term limits went into effect over a decade ago.  And many of those candidates are not career politicians.  In fact, many tout their willingness to put aside callings to other professions while reluctantly pursuing a position in office that will allow them to address the issues plaguing our state.  Because many of the previous classes of legislators were unwilling to do so.

 

And many are educators.

 

I know after years of legislative abuse, teachers are already preparing to go on the defensive once again before another legislative session begins.  Murmurs of further cuts to education are trickling through conversations.  Rumors abound about the return of the voucher wolves.

 

Let’s talk about vouchers for a second.  In recent years, our legislators have adopted other euphemisms like “Education Savings Accounts” (ESAs) and “school choice”, but the motive is the same:  pick the pocket of public schools under the guise of helping less fortunate kids, while truly seeking to subsidize private school for the wealthy ones.

 

Even with the support of multiple senior legislators, shenanigans had to ensue in order for a voucher bill to even advance out of committee.  Like removing an opposing legislator from the committee, and never replacing him.  Or the speaker and president pro-temp exercising their voting privilege on that particular committee meeting.  And despite having a large Republican majority in both chambers, the voucher bill still died because they couldn’t rally the votes for it.

 

Folks, MANY of the voucher wolves (Hickman, Jolley, Nelson, Kern, Denney) will NOT be at the capitol next year.  If they couldn’t get it done last year with all those people in place, imagine how difficult we can make it for them next session if we just vote the right people to the capitol.

 

Right now there are several races where educators are fighting tooth and nail for a seat at the table.  Personally, I’d love to see a few victories in these seats:

 

Lloyd Snow in SD37

Kimberly Fobbs SD33

John Waldron SD39

Mickey Dollens in HD93

and Shawn Sheehan in SD15 (my own district)

 

And any of these apples.apples-in-a-basket

 

In many of these races, the candidates are going blind into the election because they’re on a shoestring budget, unable to afford the polling.  Reward their effort by showing up in two weeks to cast your vote for them.  They need us to show them some love! And everybody loves a good Cinderella story, even if this madness is November and not March.

 

Seriously, folks.  I am willing to bet if we #electoklaed to a few key seats in the legislature, vouchers (and other anti-public education measures) will be DEAD before the session even begins.  Imagine what it would be like to spend a legislative session actually advocating for good legislation instead of constantly on the defensive of the bad stuff.

 

Many state elections are decided by just a few hundred, or even a handful of votes.  How many teachers do you know in your district?  We could swing any election we want to, if the mood strikes us.  And all we have to do is carve out a few minutes to show up to our polling place on November 8th.  And I’ll bet that scares the pants off some people.

 

Plus it would send a clear message to those in office:  you work for Oklahomans, not for out-of-state interests seeking to capitalize on our kids.

 

You serve at our pleasure.

 

 

There Must Be Some Kind of Way outta Here…

It’s been nearly two months since I’ve posted anything.

 

Notice I said “posted”, not “written”.  I’ve started several posts, at least four.  None of them came to fruition.  The idea didn’t “gel”, or I wasn’t in the mood to solicit arguments where the more controversial ideas were concerned.

 

A number of minor, albeit annoying, issues have beset my family over the past months.  Medical issues, family issues, money issues, new house issues, gophers-in-the-yard issues, what-is-that-smell-and-where-is-it-coming-from issues, and a number of other things that come along with moving to a “new” 50-year-old home.

 

I’m tired, folks.

 

In the education world, I notice morale is low.  Many “money-saving” steps were taken concerning personnel in all districts, but those jobs still have to be done by somebody.  That makes for a lot of frazzled people trying to wear multiple hats, some of which may be a poor fit.  Class sizes are up, course offerings are down.  Allocated funds for activities are gone, and kids and parents are expected to make up the difference.  Even “essentials” like textbooks and curriculum are now a luxury.

 

And yet, teachers are putting on their happy faces because two things are still true:

  1. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
  2. None of this is the kids’ fault.

 

“It’s not the kids…”

 

You don’t know how many times a colleague has said those words to me in the past few months—how many times I’ve said them to myself—in conversations about how frustrating it is to work in public education right now.  I still find joy in working with kids.  It still energizes me.  It still fulfills me.  It still keeps me on my toes.  I still look forward to walking in my classroom each day.  My students continue to surprise me, in good ways.  Teaching is still a rollercoaster.  I still love teaching.  I just wish I could spend more time loving it, and less time wondering if I can afford it.  Wondering what it’s costing my family, and not just financially.

 

Because, after all, “it’s not the kids” that have me wondering what the future holds for me.  It’s the voters in our state.

 

I have this feeling I can’t shake that many teachers are watching, waiting to see what happens in November before committing to one more year in Oklahoma.  Will we elect some legislators who pledge to offer viable solutions to solving our budget woes, our teacher crisis, and the poor work climate for educators in our state?  Will we pass SQ779, to raise teacher pay and hopefully stem the flow of educators from Oklahoma to every surrounding state…or any other state in the country save for one?

 

The problems facing schools, facing educators, and ultimately students have been mounting for years.  Many of us grow weary of playing the part of the Lorax.  We saw this coming.  We warned.  We yelled.  We pleaded.  We finally realized that, while many were oblivious, others saw it coming, too, and wanted it to happen.  We’re at an important crossroads.  We’re at a critical tipping point.

 

As we see the conversations heat up for elections in November, particularly for teacher candidates running for office and for SQ779, I hope we will ask ourselves some important questions.  Who’s to blame for this debacle?  Who will benefit from perpetuating the teacher shortage?  Who stands to profit from privatization of public schools?  Who stands to gain from continuing down this path of destroying public education?

 

Because…it’s not the kids.

 

 

The Proof Is in the Paycheck

***I have edited this post to reflect my June paycheck.  The pay stub I posted originally was technically my August pay.  The stub was posted to my online employee file on June 25th, even though the deposit will not occur until August.  My June check is $42.19 less than my August check will be.

I’m going to take a big leap and do something unconventional. Some may consider this a major faux pas, but if it helps shed some light on the issue of teacher pay in this state, then I’m willing to let a few people scold me for not properly following rules of etiquette pertaining to money.

I just completed my 9th year of teaching, all in Oklahoma. I have a master’s degree in my subject area (music). And this was my latest paycheck:

File Jul 17, 11 19 43 PM
I work in a district that pays monthly, so this was my take-home pay for June. All of my checks this year looked similar, give or take a few dollars here and there for covering a class on my  planning period, or attending a few paid district PD days. Some districts allow employees to  choose whether to have their salary divided across the calendar year or the school year. Most  elect to receive roughly the same amount each month for budgeting purposes, and  because…let’s face it…many of us are still working in the summer. I myself spent the entire  month of June producing a musical with my students. During July, I will be cleaning out  multiple storage rooms in my building, and writing curriculum for two new electives I’m  teaching this coming school year. Many teachers I know are participating in professional  development or AP training, attending team meetings, participating in vertical or horizontal  curriculum meetings, or a host of other things that can’t get done while we are teaching August through May. But the difference between the real job and the contract is a post for another  day.

On the left side of my pay stub, you will see my compensation broken down into a few different categories. On the right hand side are all the deductions. State and federal taxes, social security, teacher retirement (which is not ever put in my check, but paid by my employer  directly to TRS), my health insurance premiums (which is over $900 so I can insure two of my  children in addition to myself), and a few small deductions for additional insurance (vision and  life).

My base salary (gross) for my years of experience and level of education is 2,775.12/month*.

This is before taxes.

My flexible benefit allowance, an untaxed amount that I can spend on health insurance, is $526.88. It’s the same amount for all teachers, and the exact cost of the high-option health insurance. Teachers can elect to take a slightly less expensive plan offered through the state  and use the balance towards other benefits like dental, vision, or coverage of spouse or  children. The risk, of course, is the out-of-pocket is much greater in the case of a major medical incident. With the FBA, it’s use-it-or-lose-it. Teachers CANNOT use this balance to shop around
for cheaper individual or universal insurance policies, such as the plans offered through the ACA marketplace. If a teacher elects NOT to enroll in insurance through the state, he/she DOES NOT receive the full FBA added to his/her paycheck. The amount a teacher can receive en lieu of  state insurance is $69.71. So if a teacher is insured through his/her spouse, or wants to pursue  less expensive options on the marketplace, the most he/she can be compensated is about $70.

You also see a line in my compensation called “HSVCMS”. This means “high school vocal music”, and it’s referring to my “extra duty stipend”. This is the amount of money I am paid additionally by the district to run a high school vocal music program. Coaches also receive  stipends, as do activities sponsors like yearbook, STUCO, NHS, class sponsors, and so on.  Sponsors work LOTS of night and/or weekend hours outside of their contracts, and this is a  district’s way of trying to compensate some of them. The amount of the stipend varies greatly  not just from activity to activity but from district to district. Regardless, this is $300 MORE I  receive each month than a teacher without an extra duty assignment.

In addition, my base salary is $1321.53 more each year for holding a master’s degree. You read that right. My extra degree is worth less than my extra duty. But still, that’s a little over $100/month I get that somebody with only a bachelor’s degree doesn’t.

So, if I were teaching English with a bachelor’s degree and entering my 10th year as a teacher, this year I would be bringing home less than $2000 each month.

You can surely understand why so many teachers in this state are confused when they hear our adversaries claim that teachers in Oklahoma make an average of $44,000/year. While that may
be true when you include benefits, and even teacher retirement, it is far from the whole truth.

Just for comparison, I checked out the compensation for Plano ISD, less than 3 hours south of us. I couldn’t determine my compensation based on years of experience, but teachers with a  master’s degree and ZERO years of experience receive a gross base salary of $53,000  ($4,416.66/monthly). The district contribution to health insurance is $259. Yes, it is less than Oklahoma’s flexible benefit allowance. But the insurance premiums are much less expensive in Texas, so I would pay almost the same amount out of pocket to insure myself and my children as I am now in Oklahoma. In Texas, it would cost $356  in addition to the district contribution to insure both myself and my children (I currently pay  more than $400 additionally to insure my children). My extra duty stipend for 11th/12th grade  music would be $4,950 (412.50/monthly).

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers for all you math folks. Since the insurance situation is comparable in both states,
I’ll just use the pre-tax salary amounts:

Base Salary:

OK:  $36,056/yr or $3004.66/mo

TX:  $53,000/yr or $4,416.66/mo

Extra Duty

OK:  $3,659/yr or $304.92/mo

TX:  $4,950/yr or $412.50/mo

TOTAL COMPENSATION
(BEFORE TAXES):

OK:  $39,715/yr or $3,309.58/mo

TX:  $57,950/yr or $4829.16/mo

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

* Because my current district pays employees on a September-August contract, I had to elect a 13-month pay plan this year in order to avoid going without a paycheck last august. If you want to know what my check would look like on a 12 month contract, add about $225 to it. Still not that impressive, eh?

Grand Old Ruckus: How NOT to Win Your Constituents

I don’t even know where to begin with the shenanigans that ensued on the Tulsa County GOP Facebook page yesterday.  I would tell you to head over there and check it out for yourself, but they have since DELETED ALL COMMENTS on the post, including several made by republican constituents.

File Jun 20, 9 53 45 AM

This morning, there were no comments on this post, where yesterday there were dozens.

The original post was an endorsement announcement for the republican incumbent mayor, Dewey Bartlett:

            “The Republican Party of Tulsa County’s Executive Committee met Thursday night, voting unanimously to endorse the re-election of Republican Mayor Dewey Bartlett.  All six members of the organization’s Central Committee approve the measure as well.”

 

But there were other items on the agenda that evening, including the besmirching of one republican candidate challenging the incumbent Dan Newberry in SD37.  One commenter questioned the following statement received in an email from TCGOP:

            “On another front, Senate District 37 Republican Primary has also been infiltrated by the democrat influence of the Kathy Cartel.  Brian Jackson was denied access to OKGOP database and has essentially been “disavowed” by the OKGOP and the Republican Party of Tulsa County.”  Jackson has been in his own words, “running as a team” with democrat Lloyd Snow in the same race in an attempt to unseat incumbent Republican Dan Newberry.”

 

Of course he wants to unseat incumbent Republican, Dan Newberry!  Why else would he be running for office?  It is possible for somebody to be a member of the same political party and still think he/she is a better choice than another member.  Nobody, when contemplating the expense and effort of a political campaign, says to themselves, “Hmmm…well, this guy’s doing a pretty good job, and I like what he has to say, but I think I’ll spend all this time and money running against him!”

 

Why should he not work with others to defeat his opponent in the primary?  After all, haven’t you ever heard the old saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?  Could it be Brian Jackson is running because he believes the principles that govern Newberry’s decisions and platforms in previous years DO NOT represent all Republicans?

TCGOP continues the attack on Jackson by insinuating a “man-crush” on Democrat Senator J.J. Dorsett, who was seated in a special election to the Owasso district vacated by Republican Rick Brinkley.

 

Yes, Jackson applauded Dossett’s stance against a budget that was touted by many to be irresponsible and devastating for some state agencies.  Some of those in opposition were Republicans.  It only passed the house 52-45.  There are 71 Republicans in the house.  You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out some of them didn’t toe the party line on this one.  Whoops.

When commenters question TCGOP’s failure to follow their own policy of remaining neutral in primary races, they make it very clear their candidates are expected to work on behalf of the party, NOT their constituents:File Jun 20, 10 02 50 AM

 

“…honor your responsibility to the party…”

 

“…show some loyalty…”

 

Seriously?  Do those comments trouble others?  I can’t be alone in my suspicion that these tenets are what actually govern some of our party’s candidates in office, and that they DO NOT serve at the pleasure of the people anymore.

 

Notice the last part of that comment, “But then again, I’m not a single issue voter.”

 

That is clearly a passive aggressive statement at the large number of people who are making education their primary focus in this year’s elections.  Excuse me, TCGOP, if some of us are committed to actually caring for children AFTER they’re born by ensuring they have access to a fully funded education that is at least on par with what neighboring states are offering!  I’d rather be a single-issue voter than a single-PARTY voter.  I choose people I believe will represent me as closely to my beliefs as possible.  Sometimes, those people are Republicans.  Sometimes they are members of other parties.  In the last several elections, I voted for Republicans in some races and Democrats in others, and occasionally an independent.

 

The page moderator goes on to spew some tired rhetoric about how Republicans have done more for education than Democrats, and insults the intelligence of Republican voters by claiming we are all blindly and stupidly regurgitating nothing more than union propaganda.  I plan to address those comments in future posts.File Jun 20, 10 02 29 AM

 

The sh…enanigans hit the proverbial fan with this comment from TCGOP:File Jun 20, 9 59 27 AM

 

 

What strikes me about that statement is that while others are bravely commenting using their names and personal accounts, TCGOP remains hidden behind the page front.

This is no way to win votes in an election, let alone members to your party.

The comments made by TCGOP were so passive aggressive and off-putting, several other registered republicans, including Tulsa County residents, expressed their disdain and disappointment.

File Jun 20, 9 57 43 AM

 

File Jun 20, 9 58 23 AM

File Jun 20, 2 53 09 PM

I think what disappoints me most concerning these comments by TCGOP is that they serve to confirm what I feared for years about my political party:  they no longer care what the people think.  If you aren’t serving the party, if you aren’t blindly following ALL of their tenants, if you aren’t pledging loyalty to the party’s agenda above everything and everybody else, if cannot agree with EVERY party stance and platform, if you dare question the motives of the party,  then you are an “insecure and rabid troll”.

 

Why must I fit solidly in one party or another?  Why should I find it disgusting that Republicans would reach across the aisle to Democrats in solving problems for the common good?  When did it become acceptable for people representing the GOP to speak with members in such a condescending and flippant tone?

 

My husband changed his voter registration months ago out of frustration with the general direction of the Republican party.  I chose to stay because I wanted to believe those of us “middle ground” conservatives could bring about change…or even a return to the republican party of my parents.  Now, I’m not so sure.  If healthy discussion is discouraged, if civil discourse is not allowed, this college-educated millennial might just take her ball and go home.

 

And good riddance to the GOP.

File Jun 20, 2 55 20 PM

 

Voting Mr./Ms. Right

your_vote_countsI’m not a big fan of the show, “The Bachelor”.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll explain the premise:  “The Bachelor” is a reality TV show in which one man dates multiple women at the same time in front of millions of American viewers.  Over the course of several weeks, the bachelor narrows down these women via an emotional, highly dramatized finale to each show called the “rose” ceremony.  During this ceremony, the bachelor gives roses to each lucky woman he has selected to move on in the competition for his heart.  Viewers are kept on the hook throughout the season in hopes it will all end with a proposal.  The whole concept is very weird and kind of gross to me.  But apparently, I’m in the minority.  The show has enjoyed multiple seasons (and very few viable relationships, let alone marriages…go figure).

 

I don’t watch it myself.  But occasionally I’m busy in the kitchen and don’t get the channel changed from Wheel of Fortune fast enough before the opening credits begin.  This is what happened the other night, and it got me thinking:  what if, instead of a spouse, the premise of this show was for choosing our legislators?

 

As opposed to eligible bachelors, the premier introduces a host of candidates.  Instead of winning hearts, they’re vying for votes.  En lieu of romantic dinners and exotic dates, they endure a battery of challenges that examine their true motives and put their leadership skills to the test.  And at the end of every episode, in place of roses, I hand out shiny red apples as an invitation to continue in the quest to win my approval at the ballot box.

 

In the beginning it’s easy to toss the obvious misses.  The guy who loudly touts his agenda to “starve the beast” by consolidating administrative positions.  The guy who works for OCPA.

The lady wearing this shirt:File Jun 08, 6 59 06 PM

This lady:

File Jun 08, 6 58 22 PM

 

This one, too:

 

File Jun 08, 6 58 49 PM

I think I peg a decent candidate when swapping stories with a former fellow educator.  A few cocktails later, I overhear her confess to another candidate that public education isn’t worth saving.  I toss her, AND the guy she said it to…just to be safe.

 

The mid-season episode is a shocker.  We discover a front-runner and crowd favorite has been lying all along.  He says he’s an avid supporter of public education.  After all, he knew a teacher once.  But when his voting record is revealed, he can’t answer for his support of three separate bills to tie teacher pay to test scores, end healthcare benefits for educators, and reduce funding to common education for the eighth year in a row.

 

In the second-to-last episode, I put the remaining candidates to the ultimate test:  I introduce them to my classroom.  Can they stand the heat emanating from the stares of a classroom full of hormonal teenagers?  A classroom that now, thanks to budget cuts, contains thirty-five hormonal teenagers, as opposed to the slightly more manageable twenty-eight I taught last year (or the even slightly-more-manageable-er twenty-two I taught…too many years ago to remember…sigh).  Which candidates will crumble under the weight of a dozen demanding parent emails?  Who will survive the hours-upon-hours of state-mandated and only sometimes-relevant professional development?

 

If only we could put our legislative candidates through this grueling process, perhaps we’d be more apt to discover the ones worthy of our support.

 

But that would require people to care as much about who’s screwing us at the capitol as they do about who some random dude on television chooses to…date