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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Does Mitt Romney not know teacher's are Amrican too?

From the Examiner, by Jeanie Smith

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently made the statement, “[Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

I was taken aback for a moment. You see, I am a teacher here in Miami. I am also an “American person.”

“Big government” has long been a favorite target for the GOP, but usually when people think of “big government,” they think of bureaucrats in some obscure office, not teachers in a classroom with their kids, or cops keeping an eye on their neighborhoods, or firefighters on call for fires but also medical emergencies and car accidents. While it is easy for people to get frustrated about the layers of paperwork needed to get this or that permit, or about the lines at the DMV, and curse “the government,” it is unusual, even among Republicans, to hear complaints about the surplus of teachers, cops and firefighters. Most people see these “government workers” as providing real, tangible services crucial to a well-functioning community.

Perhaps even more bewildering is the implication that somehow, teachers, firefighters and police are not American people who need to be helped. Statistics show that, if Republican-led state governments had not laid off so many public sector workers, unemployment would be a full point below its current rate. Does it make any sense to say that you are encouraging “job creation” by laying off workers? We have seen that tried here in Florida under Governor Rick Scott, who said, “Let’s get to work,” then proceeded to lay off thousands in order to offer more tax breaks to corporations. Private sector job growth in Florida has been largely in the hospitality and tourism industries—minimum-wage jobs. Perhaps he thinks laid-off teachers would better serve the public by serving them cocktails?

Contrary to what Mitt Romney, Rick Scott, and the others in their camp would have you believe, teachers do not simply collect a paycheck and hoard the money under our mattresses. We actually do spend money in the local and national economy. We pay taxes, we pay bills, rent or buy houses, go shopping, go out to eat, get our hair done, go see movies and concerts—well, you get the point. We contribute to our community through the work we do, but we also contribute to the economy through the paychecks we earn. When you take away those paychecks, or reduce them, you effectively reduce money going into local businesses and yes, even into those beloved corporations.

Florida’s Republican-dominated state government has repeatedly shown teachers how little we are valued, slashing funding for education over and over, cutting our take-home pay through the imposition of the 3% “retirement contribution,” unilaterally eliminating all job security even for those teachers with the best evaluations under their unfair new system and changing the voter-approved class size amendment to stuff classes not tested by the FCAT to the brim. Perhaps seen in that light, Romney’s bid for “fewer teachers” makes sense: lay half of them off, and double the size of the classes of those left. He has, after all, said that class size does not matter, even though he sent his own children to a posh private school where the student-teacher ratio was 12:1. Should we assume that he would have happily sent them to a school where the ratio was 50:1? Let’s not ask. Bill Gates, another billionaire with no background in education, has said class size doesn’t matter, and has put his money where his mouth is. That’s good enough for Romney.

The final interesting implication of Romney’s remarks is that, since they are evidently not “American people” who need to be helped, teachers, cops and firefighters do not vote. But this teacher does vote. And she does not need to hear any more to know how she will be casting her ballot in November.

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