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School Closings

Start focusing on poverty and stop bashing teacher unions

Start focusing on poverty and stop bashing teacher unions

  • Start focusing on poverty and stop bashing teacher unions
  • Republican Party has lost its mo
  • Start focusing on poverty and stop bashing teacher unions

    [New Jersey Gov.] Chris Christie offered a very toxic speech at the Republican National Convention, taking particular joy in bashing teacher unions as if they were the single cause for our failing schools.

    Unions are why we have a middle class in the United States. They ensured that workers had a safe working environment and were provided with fair wages. Remember the Broadway show, "Pajama Game"? Workers could not compete with big businesses. They had to accept whatever wages and working conditions that were offered for fear of losing their job.

    My grandmother died of tuberculosis from working in a sweatshop. Long hours, crowded unsanitary and steamy hot conditions were typical of the sweatshops.

    Tired of being treated like sub-humans, workers organized into unions to give them bargaining power. Collective bargaining became an important strategy to negotiate fair working conditions and wages. Without it, for example, teachers could be assigned to teach all day with no break except for lunch. Imagine being on stage for six hours, no toilet break and your audience is middle-school children? My first year of teaching, I was given that assignment twice a week. The unions negotiated that teachers must have at least one prep period a day.

    No doubt there is a strong correlation between student success and the caliber of the teachers. However, the reason the United States does not have the No. 1 education system in the world cannot be blamed on teacher unions, as stated by Christie.

    Children living in poverty lack parental support and an enriched home life. Those factors are very important to success in school. The United States has a very diverse population of students, many with English as their second language. The test scores of all of these children are averaged into the overall picture.

    Christie mentions that Massachusetts has the best schools, because of its high performance on the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] tests. However, the average income of the top five performing states (according to a 2009 census) is $60,000 and 21 percent of people over 25 have a bachelor's degree, while the bottom five states have an average income of $44,000 and 14 percent have a bachelor's degree. The reason our schools are failing cannot be blamed on unions.

    Unions have come a long way. They addressed very serious problems faced by workers and negotiated to ameliorate many of them. However, unions do need to work with teachers and administrators to reform the mechanism by which ineffective teachers can be removed.

    Joan Wagner

    Saratoga Springs

    Republican Party has lost its moderates, and way

    What is the proper role for government in a pluralistic democracy?

    Is it focusing on intrusive or restrictive legislation concerning the most intimate dimension of life? Is it excluding a significant portion of the population from access to health care? Is it promoting a fundamentalist agenda to which the majority does not subscribe? Is it making sure the very wealthy become wealthier while the poor scramble to survive?

    Make no mistake; a vote for today's Republican Party is a vote for all of the above. Moderates within the Republican Party have been silenced and extremist views dominate. Moderates like [former New Jersey Gov.] Christie Todd Whitman and [U.S. Sen.] Olympia Snowe have been driven away. Whitman's book, "It's My Party, Too," chronicles this progression and Snowe recently announced that she will not run again. The principal victims will be women and the working class.

    Issues long considered settled are now in the crosshairs of ultra-conservative politicians: access to contraception, safe and legal abortion, reasonable immigration laws (where did your ancestors come from?) and reasonable social welfare policies.

    Women in particular have good reason to fear today's Republican agenda. Think carefully before you vote.

    Eleanor Aronstein

    Galway

    Remember, a clean pet is a welcome pet

    It's time for all pet lovers and owners to think of your animals and take care of them. If you own a pet and respect yourself, please respect your animal, your apartment and community and clean up after them.

    Animals are as clean as the people who care for them. Landlords will be more pet- friendly if you follow these suggestions.

    Dan Rigney

    Schenectady

    High gas prices won’t help Obama in November

    What is the excuse for the rise in [gas] prices?

    With the elections nearing, why is Mr. Obama not keeping them low? You think he would want the votes.

    But not from this household. Good Luck, Mr. Obama -- you need it.

    Scott Anderson

    Scotia

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