At the close of the Mississippi legislature session this past spring, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves showed his true allegiance to K-12 education. After once again successfully standing in the way of a meaningful public school teacher pay raise, he secretly slipped two million dollars into a non-education bill to support education vouchers for private schools. Though his lack of support for public education is legendary, why would he risk such a blatant misuse of power during an election year? It is simple! He knew there is nothing Mississippi teachers can or will do about it! Like so many politicians, he looks at teachers as a bunch of little schoolmarms with little serious power or backbone to stand up and be taken seriously. He believes 20% of teachers might get upset by such a betrayal, another 20% of teachers simply won’t care for whatever reason, and 60% of teachers will be thankful for the crumbs they get and go about business as usual. So, in his mind, what does he have to fear if he sticks it to public school teachers?
Based on public school teacher voting history, Mr. Reeves knows the odds are in his favor that tomorrow teachers will be among the first in line – if they go to the polls at all – to vote for him as the next governor regardless of how badly he may have treated teachers in the past. He understands teachers have short memories, are submissive to a fault, and as long as he flies the Republican banner, he has little to fear from a potential power that is basically dormant in the state. It is sad politicians like him get away with it year after year after year, but in Mississippi it is a fact!
To their credit, there are those teachers who advocate a strike or walkout to get their voices heard, but years ago the Mississippi legislature adopted a “proclamation of servitude” aimed at teachers that effectively squashes any action in that direction beyond words. However, teachers have a tool that is potentially far greater than the impact of any strike – they have a VOTE! Teachers have the power to vote politicians like Tate Reeves out of office. With their vote, teachers have the power to end the disrespect of their profession and the underhanded deals that shortchange public school children and teachers. It is time teachers stop voting for people because they are from a certain party, they are “good ole boys,” or they know their mamas. Together teachers have the power to vote out of office Tate Reeves and anyone else who has demonstrated repeatedly their support for public education is only a token nod at election time.
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely Mississippi teachers will ban together. Tate Reeves knows that well, and as a result of statewide teacher apathy, once elected governor, he will continue to do unto teachers as he pleases. Tate Reeves is not a friend of public education or its teachers! The sad truth is unless educators wake up, the next four and most likely eight years will be little better and probably worse for public school educators. If Mr. Reeves’ history and past underhanded shenanigans are an indication of his integrity and commitment to public education in Mississippi, Mississippi teachers are in a world of trouble if he becomes the next governor.
It is in their best interests for teachers to stand up for themselves and be heard at the ballot box tomorrow. Instead of casting a submissive vote based on how the spouse votes or blindly voting party affiliation, teachers should vote as a profession knowing the future of Mississippi and its children are at stake. If they don’t, there shouldn’t be any future teacher complaints of disrespect, moaning over lost public education funding, or tears over being jilted out of another pay raise. Instead, teachers should be content to stand aside and watch quietly as more and more of their money and the money of public school children is funneled to private education. Without a public education infused vote in tomorrow’s election, that is exactly what will happen. Money intended to support public schools will be funneled to private schools eventually resulting in the dismantling of public education. The only way for public school education to get its fair share is to hold legislators accountable for their actions towards public education. The state legislature holds teachers accountable for their actions in the classroom, so it is time teachers held legislators and politicians such as Tate Reeves accountable for their actions regarding public education as well.
The worse thing that could happen to Mississippi in tomorrow’s election is for teachers to have a memory lapse and forget what Mr. Reeves and others like him have done to them rather than for them. The worse thing that could happen is for teachers not to have the courage to rock the boat and say we are not going to stand for politics as usual anymore. The worse thing that could happen is for teachers to stay home and not vote! It is time educators show Mr. Reeves that when it comes to being elected governor in Mississippi there is no such thing as entitlement, especially for someone who has shown so little regard for public school education.
The question is not can Mississippi public school teachers and those who support them make a difference in tomorrow’s election. The question is WILL THEY?
©Jack Linton, November 4, 2019