WHY PUBLIC OPINION HAS TURNED AGAINST TEACHERS
I was listening to a call in radio show yesterday and the topic was Chicago teachers and their current voting whether or not to authorize a strike. The majority of callers were very angry with the teachers and extremely frustrated by the teachers’ demands. That was typical of a fairly recent phenomenon in which public opinion has turned against teachers.
I’ve written before about the reasons for this, but I now think I have uncovered the primary reason. I’ve written about the lack of personal responsibility in our current society. If a student isn’t succeeding, it’s the teacher’s fault, unlike in years past when it was considered a failing on the part of the student themselves and their parents. I’ve written about the incredibly effective job that the big moneyed “reformers” have done in blaming teacher unions. I’ve cited the role of the press in making headlines about every ridiculous teacher action.
The list of reasons is very lengthy and I’ve written about all of them before, but the primary reason is the current housing crisis, and how it has turned homeowners against public education and teachers. Like most problems in our society, it all comes down to money.
The majority of homeowners in the past have always complained about property taxes. Complaining about high property taxes is as American as apple pie. While most homeowners complained about how much money went to local schools and to teacher salaries, they didn’t complain too loudly because they knew that good schools require money, and when their neighborhood schools were good, the value of their house would also be good and continue to rise as it had always done. Homeowners outwardly complained about property taxes, but inside they were giddy that their house continued to soar in value. They were willing to support decent teacher salaries and benefits as long as their precious home value kept rising and they knew their “golden years” financial security was guaranteed by the thousands of dollars they had in the form of home equity.
Now that most homes have declined in value while property taxes haven’t, and many homeowners have lost all the years of equity they had accumulated, it’s time for the homeowners to find an outlet for their rage. Guess whose salary is paid with property taxes? Guess who has comfortable retirement plans while homeowners have lost their secure retirement when their home equity vanished? Guess who dares to ask for a modest raise and continued benefits while homeowners feel they have “lost everything”? Guess who has the nerve to talk about a strike when homeowners are trying to save every penny and eating mac and cheese four nights a week? Guess who’s responsible for the homeowners’ children that aren’t successful in school, the same people who have “outrageously high salaries”?
I have a strong feeling that if the housing crisis had never happened, teachers would not be losing the public perception battle. If teachers are to regain the high ground in the area of public relations, we need to find a new way to fund schools and end the property tax burden on homeowners. Until the current housing crisis ends, teachers are going to continue to be a scapegoat for angry and frustrated homeowners.