Confehr: Teachers besieged, bothered, bewildered

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's not hard to realize why people are in their line of work -- assuming they're fortunate enough to be employed in the trade or profession of their choice.

Altruism is why teachers are teachers. When teachers and public service employees are demonized as reported from Wisconsin, the more it seems the complainers have a bad case of envy.

Collective bargaining - an established right - shouldn't be tossed aside in the name of economy. What's happening in Wisconsin is happening in Nashville. Beware.

Meanwhile, there's a shortage of math and science teachers. Those with that ability get paid better working for businesses. Engineers, chemists, computer geeks, biologists and others are paid more than teachers. Their stock options, insurance and retirement are better than what's negotiated by education associations.

Teachers took the path of the tortoise, not the hare. Someone else negotiates a work contract for them. In Tennessee, those negotiators are unpaid volunteers. If teacher work contracts seem generous, remember that a state association didn't negotiate them, local employees did, and the contract is an agreement. Local government officials weren't forced to sign.

Now, we have a local situation substantiating reasons for tenure and a state association.

If a teacher is falsely accused, there's a group that can help. The Tennessee Education Association will provide legal assistance to teachers in a jam. If there's a wild accusation and someone wants a teacher fired for not explaining all the causes of the Civil War or the origin of the species, then it's tenure and the education association that provides stability.

False accusations aren't unusual.

In Unionville during 2005, a Community High School vice principal was accused of child abuse -- allegedly paddling a student too much.

The accusation was false. The schools director knew it. He helped a Shelbyville newspaper report the whole story. Thirteen months later, the student apologized for his father's actions.

A doctor in Smyrna interpreted bruises as child abuse. That "made the news." But the bruises were from a four-wheeler ATV accident and the boy felt badly about his father's plan to sue the school to get money.

The boy was interviewed in his foster parents' home in late 2006 when the father was in the Rutherford County Jail for misbehavior that's like his plan to sue.

The vice principal saw the boy as a victim. He was proud the boy's education was back on track. The boy liked mathematics because his teacher was good to him. He likes agriculture, had goats and was leaning about cattle.

Those events are different from what was revealed "on the news" last week and reported Wednesday, but there could be similarities. It shouldn't take a year to get at the root of it. If there's a state report on the recent events it ought to be made public soon.

There are good reasons for public record laws and required publication of government announcements. Just because greed and envy ruined the economy, basic rights to open government shouldn't be abridged.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.