PA Legislature Plans Taking Away Teachers’ Sick Days

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Dear Pennsylvania legislators:

So now you want to take away teachers’ sick days.

Sabbatical, sick days, bereavement leaves – the Senate Education Committee voted 7-5 to strip them from the law and make teachers bargain for them with their districts.

So the next time I get sick, you don’t want to guarantee I can take the day off. If my mother dies, you don’t want to protect my right to attend her funeral.

The full legislature still has to vote on it, but that’s pretty cold.

Which brings me to my first question: Why do you hate public school teachers so much?

Seriously. What did teachers ever do to you? Did we give you a bad grade when you were kids? Did we give you detention? What did we ever do to earn such animosity?

You obviously must have something personal against teachers.

It’s understandable. Even though the majority of Pennsylvanians voted for Democrats, most of you are Republicans. You have gerrymandered the state so that you artificially have the majority, and as such you must espouse the most radical positions possible. Otherwise, you’ll be primaried by someone even farther right – a Tea Partier, a plutocrat, an anarcho-capitalist, a fascist.

We see the same thing playing out nationally. Hello, Donald Trump!

So it’s no surprise that after stripping public schools of almost $1 billion every year for the past five years, after tens of thousands of teachers have been laid off, after you’ve given away millions of dollars to private corporations to run fly-by-night charter schools or through tax credits to religious schools – well, it’s no surprise that you feel the need to continue the war on teachers.

It’s paying off for you big time.

Not so much for our school children. They have had to deal with increases in class size, narrowing of the curriculum, reductions in extra-curriculars, cuts in tutoring – just about every deprivation imaginable.

I wonder – do you realize that every attack against teachers is also an attack against students? Making sick teachers come to school won’t improve kids’ educations. Forcing educators to choose between work or seeing their loved ones off to their final resting places won’t boost test scores. Do you understand that or do you just not care?

Follow-up, if I may: do you realize that most public school teachers are women? Does that factor in at all? Which do you hate more, the gender of most teachers or the fact that we are unionized?

Oh, and Pennsylvania School Boards Association, don’t think we’ve forgotten you. We know you requested this mess, Senate Bill 229. Instead of standing with your teachers to fight for fair, equitable, sustainable funding, you’ve decided to ask the legislature if you can stiff teachers to make ends meet. We’re there for your kids everyday, and this is how you thank us. That’s gratitude.

It’s what we get for being one of the last workforces to be unionized. We have the temerity to demand fair treatment. You can’t just do whatever you like with us, you have to actually sit down with us at the bargaining table and talk.

Legislators, we know it’s something that infuriates your base. No, I don’t mean the people who vote for you. I mean your real base – the corporations, millionaires and billionaires who pay your real salaries – the unlimited and shadowy campaign contributions that, let’s be honest, are really nothing less than legal bribes.

We shouldn’t be surprised that you have prioritized taking away legal protections for teachers’ sick days. It is quite in line with what you want to do to the profession. You no longer want highly qualified teachers making a middle class income who then can stay in our schools for their entire careers. You want lightly trained temps who use teaching as a stepping stone to a job that pays enough to live.

After all, if we afford teachers the status of professionals, they might actually be able to jump all the other hurdles we’ve put in front of them and educate the poor.

That would be terrible.

Despite all the standardized testing, Common Core, value-added measures, budget cuts, and constant propaganda about “failing schools,” they might actually teach these kids to think. That’s the last thing you want.

A thinking public might see how much you’re screwing them over. They might actually rise up and fight. They might refuse to accept the status quo that you are so desperately trying to protect.

That’s your real endgame. And though it makes me sick, I suppose I will no longer be able to take off.

I’ll just spend the day, coughing and wheezing with the children.

Yours,

Steven Singer

The Gadfly on the Wall

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21 thoughts on “PA Legislature Plans Taking Away Teachers’ Sick Days

  1. It’s actions like these by illegally gerrymandered elected GOP reps that will, I think, eventually push the people too far and many will rebel violently with bullets and bombs.

    And that is exactly what the malignant narcist Littlefingers Donald Trump in the White House and his Rasputin, Steven Bannon, want because they both think it’s okay to crush/murder anyone involved in a violent protest.

    Littlefingers and Rasputin will keep pushing the people until they get angry because that’s what they want, an excuse to shoot us down in the streets to show the world how great America is.

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  2. This proposed bill simply puts the issue of sick and bereavement leave in the hands of the democratically elected local school board.

    The level of teacher mistrust of the democratically elected local school board is certainly a lesson for parents. If the democratically elected local school board can not be trusted to do the right thing concerning teachers, surely parents should not trust the democratically elected local school board to do the right thing when it comes to students. State, or perhaps even federal control is required.

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  3. I can’t believe you’d defend this, Teaching economist. I know you’re not a public school teacher, but you say you’re an educator. You won’t stand with those in your profession for something like sick days? What kind of teacher are you? No, what kind of person? This bill serves no purpose but to make it possible to reduce the number of sick and bereavement days teachers get. And by allowing it, this lets the legislature have an excuse for not healing the almost $1 billion in annual budget cuts the Commonwealth’s school children have to suffer through. I can respect differences of opinion and honest discussion, but you have proven yourself to be nothing but a shill for any management decision no matter how vile. You are a troll. Do not bother responding to this. I will delete it. There is nothing more for you to say.

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  4. That’s awful to take away sick days. PA Legislature should have to pay for their own health insurance. They could afford it. Look at the pensions they get. Teacher deserve sick days.

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  5. I am so sorry to witness this time in the history of public education. You hit the nail on the head. The GOP do not want a thinking public. If more of us have the power of critical thought, it is not good for them. Keep writing, keep fighting Steven. Thank you for being a teacher who cares.

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    • “,,, the history of public education.” More like the END of public education if Trump/Pence and the Republican state legislatures have a few more years of power.

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  6. You BASH the GOP…..”t’s understandable. Even though the majority of Pennsylvanians voted for Democrats, most of you are Republicans. You have gerrymandered the state so that you artificially have the majority, and as such you must espouse the most radical positions possible. Otherwise, you’ll be primaried by someone even farther right – a Tea Partier, a plutocrat, an anarcho-capitalist, a fascist.

    We see the same thing playing out nationally. Hello, Donald Trump!”

    AND THEN YOU POST THIS! “So it’s no surprise that after stripping public schools of almost $1 billion every year for the past five years, after tens of thousands of teachers have been laid off, after you’ve given away millions of dollars to private corporations to run fly-by-night charter schools or through tax credits to religious schools – well, it’s no surprise that you feel the need to continue the war on teachers.

    It’s paying off for you big time.”

    Which is it? The DEMOCRATS you want to blame? Or is it the REPUBLICANS!

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    • In Pennsylvania both the state House and state Senate are controlled by Republicans. They deserve the lions share of the blame. If our state wasn’t so gerrymandered, Democrats would be in control. But this is not the case. The GOP has a constructed majority.

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  7. Steven M. Singer: I read your article on Huffington Post. I agree completely. I’m a former Pennsylvanian now living in Arizona (not my idea, it’s a family thing). I attended public schools in PA, went to college on a scholarship that was the work of the great Gov. Shapp, and I used to teach at Pitt. Getting a close-up look at what results when the ultra-right runs things, as it does in AZ, it pains me to think that Pennsylvania is now on that same road thanks to GOP gerrymandering. People pay very low taxes here in AZ, but one of the results is a native populace that lacks literacy, decision-making skills, and any knowledge of government or economics. I remember how I adored so many of my teachers when I was growing up in Western PA. To think that teachers would be denied sick and bereavement leave because Tea Party types want to save a dollar on their taxes is cruel beyond belief.

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  8. I’ve been involved in teacher contract negotiations. Only one session. The union presented demands that were totally outrageous, and the educational organization wanted to give only those things that were authorized by law. Therefore, if this bill is signed into law, the school district would have the ability to start negotiations at 0 sick days, rather than 10. The teacher’s union could ask for 30…and after months of wrangling, end up at 15. But giving 15 would probably never happen. Knowing how often teachers are exposed to sick children (God forbid that parents would keep their sick children home since doing so presents an inconvenience to the working parent today), teachers catch whatever children bring to school.

    It’s also been said that teachers only work a minimal amount of hours during the work day. Unfortunately, there is work that needs to be done at home (grading tests, especially when a teacher has no prep periods during the day, for instance), as well as other activities they’re supposed to engage in to create a caring environment for children. If the “hours worked” issue comes up, since we’re talking union contracts here, they should be able to say, just like the truckers, “Nope, I’ve given you 7 hours today. I’m done.” “Oh, but you have a meeting you need to be at tonight.” “Nope. Take it up with the union rep. If you want that nighttime meeting, you should have scheduled an early dismissal.” Wouldn’t that go over well!

    Here’s the big issue. This bill is brought up by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Interesting. Please take a look at the people that make up your local school board. Are they professional educators? Are they former professional educators? Do they have advanced degrees in education? Are they going to school to earn their Master of Education or Doctor of Education degrees? Or are they just interested in how much money is being spent in the district and want to cut taxes. Personally, as one who possesses a Master of Education degree, it turned my stomach to see our school board members at graduation exercises process down the aisle wearing the cap and hood of the Master of Education degree. Nine community volunteers determining the fate of professional educators and the community’s children. And state lawmakers want to keep taking benefits away. Pretty soon, you’re not going to have any teachers. Who would want to deal with this kind of disrespect?

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