Tuesday, November 3, 2015 the people of Mississippi sent a message to public school educators that they didn’t care. That may sound harsh since many of those who voted against supporting education actually did care, but they were confused and bamboozled by the GOP leadership. Nevertheless, their numbers, plus the numbers of those who truly didn’t care, successfully drove a stake through the hearts of public school educators. To put it simply, public school teachers in Mississippi were royally shafted!
There is little doubt that if the campaign leading up to the vote had been on the up and up, Initiative 42 would have passed. But, the deceitful propaganda and the campaigning of the Southern fried good old boy troubadours (Bryant, Reeves, and Gunn) were simply too much for many Mississippians to see through. In a state where much of the population acquires its news solely from talk radio, television, and word of mouth, it is disappointing but understandable when people prove to be gullible to such tactics. In spite of the valiant efforts to cleanse the confusion and dirt from the air surrounding Initiative 42, teachers, parents, college professors, and church ministers, to name a few, tried unsuccessfully to debunk anti-Initiative 42 hearsay that was laced with tidbits of race bating and “you ain’t gonna tell us what to do” phobia. It is hard to compete with the hair dresser, Uncle Snooty, Aunt Birdie, wisdom benders in the church parking lot, and Cousin Jeb who knows a guy who knows a guy in the Legislature, telling people the truth as they, by God and word of mouth, know it to be.
Nevertheless, in spite of the shafting, educators learned that for maybe the first time in history, they are not alone! They learned there is a grassroots movement of over 300,000 Mississippians who are also fed up with the lack of Legislative support for education. This movement represents the new Mississippi, and educators must take care not to overlook the tremendous efforts so many people made on their behalf. Though discouraged, this is a time for teachers to take what has been learned from this fight and temporarily file it away to use another day. This is a Mississippi fight that will not end until education becomes a priority.
What Educators Learned From Initiative 42
- We learned our state leaders are not above intentionally misleading and confusing the people;
- We learned some community college presidents who have always touted being a friend of public education speak with the tongue and venom of a snake;
- We learned what the rest of the nation has been saying is true – Mississippi has changed little;
- We learned many people in our state believe too much is spent on education, and some even believe they could take the money presently spent on education and do a better job teaching than state teachers. Of course, teachers know that is a lot of hot air! First, those would be teachers would not commit themselves to spending thousands of dollars for the degrees and advanced degrees it takes to get a license to teach! Second, those would be teachers couldn’t handle the long hours dealing with someone else’s kids while shortchanging their own, and they certainly would not work for a teacher’s salary that when divided by the hours worked amounts to far less than minimum wage. Those would be teachers wouldn’t have the stomach to clean up the vomit, deal with soiled clothes, and runny noses that go along with the job. They wouldn’t understand that teachers often have to be a mama or daddy to children in need of guidance, love and a whole lot of understanding and compassion. They couldn’t cope with the stress that goes with an “I gottcha!” evaluation system. They would not subject themselves to the constant ridicule and disrespect thrown at them by so many in the public and political ranks. But, most of all those would be teachers couldn’t handle going to work every day praying their family understands why they teach, and hoping at least the parents of the children they teach care and appreciate the job they are doing, but knowing other than family, a handful of remarkable parents, and colleagues, no one cares about them as a teacher;
- We learned that before the dust of the battle has fully cleared, the talk in Jackson is not about what the Legislature can do to show they care about teachers, but rather the talk is centered around doing away with MAEP, so in the future the legislators will not have to face a situation similar to Initiative 42 again;
- We learned that many people believe Mississippi education is broken, but they are not willing to do what it takes to fix it;
- We learned from people who haven’t been in a classroom or walked into a school in years what a sorry job teachers are doing in the classroom and how they are wasting taxpayer money;
- We learned all the education money is going to millionaire school administrators and not the classrooms;
- We learned that a Mississippi chancery judge is the most powerful judicial position in the state and maybe the nation; and
- We also learned that a chancery judge is especially powerful if he or she is black and from Hinds County.
Initiative 42 was a time of learning and coming to grips with reality for public school educators. In addition to the lessons mentioned above, educators learned that when it comes to education, too many in the public are quick to the trigger with excuses for not supporting it. Politically, educators learned that, other than the faces, little has changed in Mississippi politics over the years – the party in power still tends to be the party of suppression. However, the most important lesson educators learned is that it takes the passion of a saint, the courage of a warrior, and the compassion of an angel to be a teacher in Mississippi. As I have said elsewhere, teachers from Mississippi will not have to stand in line in Heaven to get their wings; they will be moved immediately to the head of the line.
©Jack Linton, PhD, November 7, 2015