Commentary

Our teachers are essential workers. We need to treat — and pay them — that way | Opinion

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By Jill Sunday Bartoli

We are losing teachers by the thousands. These committed, heroic professionals have valiantly led our children through the hardships of the pandemic. They are dedicated teachers who truly care about the critical thinking of their students in an era of disinformation, divisiveness and outright lies from our elected leaders. A

Parents and grandparents need to step up in defense of our teachers, and inform our elected representatives that they need to invest in and support our teachers and public schools, rather than tell them what they can and cannot teach.

The recent tirades of legislators who copycat the same uninformed bills across the country are good examples.

Instead of investing in our teachers and public schools, instead of investing in our children who are in desperate need of affordable housing and good nutrition, legislators and other politicians rant about non-existent voter fraud and critical race theory.

Despite the disinformation campaign about it, critical race theory merely asks us to think about the systemic connections between poverty and race, between opportunity and lack of it, and between access to healthcare and the lack of it.

No one is asked to feel guilty about being white. That would accomplish nothing.

What we are asked to do is to think critically, compassionately and thoughtfully as citizens in a democracy. We are asked to understand our current inequities in income, criminal justice, housing and healthcare, and to consider how we can work together for a more fair, just and equal society for everyone.

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The bottom line is, who do we trust with the minds of our children—politicians or our teachers? And how fair is it that politicians earn triple the pay of our teachers? And why are our schools so badly underfunded in the less wealthy communities, when legislator pay and benefits continue to rise?

I think it is time for us, as parents and grandparents, to stand up for our teachers and our public schools. It is time to demand the 50 percent state budget investment that other states make, and that we used to make before 1980.

And it is time that legislators make their pay and benefits equal to those of our dedicated and professional teachers.

A former educator, Jill Sunday Bartoli writes from Carlisle, Pa. Her work appears occasionally on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.

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