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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Thanks, teachers, but shut your traps

Once again, the mask of “educational reform” has slipped to reveal its real face: anger toward teachers.

Anger toward teachers – always prefaced, conditioned, softened and front-loaded with B.S. – is perhaps the single biggest factor motivating those who don’t want to pay for schools. Every now and then, this might slip our minds as we listen to the rhetoric of “reformers” – who talk about bringing technology into the classrooms, empowering principals, disempowering unions, grading and punishing schools, raising standards, setting priorities, etc.

At bottom, it’s simply anger toward teachers. Summers off! Health benefits! Paid vacations! Who do they think they are, these teachers? At bottom, it’s conviction that the real problem with education is that teachers are too well-paid, too lavishly rewarded for doing such a lousy job, and, even worse, that they don’t really care about children.

They are selfish, these teachers.

Rep. Liz Pike, a Camas Republican, is the latest to let her sneering anger show through the mask. Pike posted a Facebook rant that quickly made the online rounds this week in which she nastily and sarcastically insulted teachers who want a cost-of-living raise. I don’t know if there’s room in the budget for this raise, but it’s surely unsurprising that the teachers themselves would want one.

Still, you get the sense that Liz Pike is a teensy bit sick of it.

“I spent the morning answering emails from constituents,” her Facebook post begins. “I receive a lot of emails from teachers complaining about their cost of living increases being suspended. 

“Here’s an open letter to public educators!

“Congratulations on enjoying your last day of the school year. If I had the opportunity to choose my career all over, I would have opted to get the necessary degree and teaching certificate so that I too could enjoy summertime off with my children, spring break vacations, Christmas break vacations, paid holidays, a generous pension and health insurance benefits.

“Instead, I chose to work a career in private sector business so that I could be one of those tax payers who funds your salaries and benefits as a state employee in a local school district.”

One gets the sense that Pike feels insufficiently thanked for being a business owner. Insufficiently lauded.

She continued:

“First, let me be clear, thank you for your service to our schools. I hope you are one of the excellent instructors who is inspiring our children to reach their full intellectual potential and learn the value of true leadership in our community. I hope you are one of the brightest and best in your teaching profession who is willing to raise the bar in our public education system that unfortunately continues to plummet when compared to worldwide education standards. The big difference between the U.S. public education system and others in the world is that we have unions that only care about the adults in the system. Since the rise of teachers’ unions in this nation, our public education system has deteriorated. 

“I always encourage folks to choose a job they love! If you are uninspired because of the lack of a cost of living increase, I encourage you to speak with your neighbors who work in the private sector. Ask them when was the last time they were guaranteed pay increases that were not based on performance standards. Furthermore, teachers who are dissatisfied with their pay and benefits should look for work elsewhere so that someone who is inspired to greatness can take their place in the classroom. Our children deserve an exceptional and inspired teacher in every classroom. Don’t you agree? …

“To every excellent teacher in Clark County. Thank you for the great work you are doing in our classrooms. Enjoy your summer!”

Pike seems to have a foggy grasp on the questions surrounding the unionization of teachers in other countries, but hey – there’s some excellent advice in there among the misinformed anger against teachers. Choose a job you love. Choose a job you love – and abandon any expectation that your pay might keep up with inflation. Choose a job you love – and never dare to question the wisdom of those who set your pay. Choose a job you love – and shut the hell up.

Unless, I suppose, you’re a business owner. Then you should go around begging for breaks from the state and whining about your burden, every day, all day.

Pike owns an advertising firm and an organic farm, which sells eggs and produce. Farms enjoy – and perhaps deserve – a wide range of tax breaks under our state tax system, for everything from bull semen to chicken bedding. This last one is meaningful to Pike – those who raise chickens pay no sales taxes for wood-shavings or for the propane used to heat chicken houses.

Upon taking office as a lawmaker last fall, she instantly sought to extend the propane tax break to greenhouses. First things first. The owners of greenhouses apparently do not love their job enough – do not find themselves sufficiently inspired to greatness – that they don’t want a little boost in their pocketbook.

She urges her constituents to support – and hug! – local farmers. She noted in a legislative update: “They are forced to compete with cheap imported produce from other parts of the world.”

Forced to compete! If only they could have chosen a job that they loved.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.