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  Local teachers support school budget
-by Peggy Hense Hardwig
Peggy Hense Hardwig is a teacher at Karns High School.
Karns High teachers Amy Ashley, Alice Carson and Ilona Ray contributed to this column.

We are Knox County school teachers with some 50 years combined of teaching at Karns High School behind us and hopefully many more to come. Our children attend Knox County Schools. We live in Knoxville and pay taxes to both city and county. As stakeholders in all these ways, we are writing in support of Superintendent Jim McIntyre's proposed budget.

Recent data tell us that only 47 percent of third-graders are reading at grade level. Only 19 percent of the Class of 2011 met all four ACT college-readiness benchmarks.

For these and other reasons, it is clear to all of us that our schools are failing our students in fundamental ways. However, we would refocus that idea to suggest that it is not just our schools but our society that is failing our children in fundamental ways. Our lack of academic readiness points to a problem that is far outside the scope of education alone.

Everyone agrees that education is essential. We suggest that if we want to begin to fix our problems, we need to put our money where our mouths are.

Clearly, money will not solve all the problems of education. Money can't make students come to school ready to learn. Money can't make a child stay on task throughout the class period. Money can't force a student to value the opportunities that education opens up to him.

But more money in the budget will help.

Money will stop us from losing the 136 teacher and support positions that we will soon lose as federal funding dries up. Having more teachers — rather than fewer — will help.

Improved services such as day-long kindergarten, more and improved interventions for struggling students and better programs to help advanced students reach their highest potential certainly will help.

Buildings that are safe and clean, adequately heated and cooled and free of mold and mildew will help.

Teachers who have the means to attend professional development to improve classroom management, to learn new teaching skills in their areas of expertise and to refresh or deepen their knowledge in their areas of expertise will help.

Regular access to up-to-date technology that will shape our children's world — not just the toys, but the tools — will help. Our kids will use technology in their working years that we can't yet imagine, but unless we prepare them to use our current technology, they won't be able to follow its changes as it morphs into the technology of the workplace of tomorrow.

Society seems to have two alternating views of teachers: We are either angels, dedicating our lives to your children, or lazy jerks who work in education only for the summers off. We'll suggest a centrist view: We are people with jobs, families, bills to pay. We became teachers because we love our subjects and we enjoy working with kids and we want to make a difference.
Like everyone else, though, we need to put gas in our cars' tanks and food in our families' mouths, and so the 2 percent across-the-board raise and the small annual step raises will help.

We're trying. I promise you, the vast majority of Knox County teachers and administrators are doing our very best to educate our county's kids. We know that their time in our classrooms often sets the course for the rest of their lives, and we would like every kindergartner to come out of one of our high schools 13 years later with a diploma in one hand and an acceptance letter to the college or institution of higher learning of their choice in the other. We have not given up.

Please, help us to achieve this dream for your students. For less than the price of an ice cream cone each week, you can lengthen a kindergartner's school day so that she is ready to read in first grade, improve aging school infrastructures, keep our technology up to date and give teachers more opportunities to stay fresh in their fields.

Please support the proposed school budget.

Knoxville News-Sentinel Op-Ed piece

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