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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionLetter: Youngkin, right-wing GOP to blame for teacher woes

Letter: Youngkin, right-wing GOP to blame for teacher woes

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Editor: Your recent editorial [“Our View: High-Quality Teachers Face Challenges”] included a cheap attack on teacher unions and failed to mention the guilty culprit – Gov. Youngkin and right-wing Republican attacks on teachers and public schools that are dire and harmful.

Teacher unions exist to be strong advocates for their teacher members, and that includes both salaries and on-the-job respect and good treatment.

Teachers are professionals whose views and input should be reflected in local schools, and local teacher unions such as the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers do exactly that. The purpose of unions is also to protect individual teachers who are unfairly treated by principals and not to enforce any educational ideology.

My late father, my wife and now my daughter were or are public-school teachers and teacher-union members. All teachers are underpaid, overworked and stressed today by the pandemic, and try to educate as best they can the youth using curriculums set out by the local School Boards and by the statewide Standards of Learning. Unions bring the collective wisdom and help to principals and School Boards and over time create a more productive workplace and better outcomes for the students.

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This cannot be said for our current governor Youngkin, who started a snitch line for people to report on public-school teachers who may be teaching an objectionable history book or novel.

Maybe the governor should just go ahead and issue his list of banned books and help English and history teachers on what books are permissible. Would his banned book list include “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Diary of Anne Frank” and the “People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn? In my years at Yorktown High School in Arlington in the 1960s, “Catcher in the Rye” was banned, so let’s add that book to the banned list today so that history can repeat itself.

I trust school librarians and teachers to pick out the books appropriate for the age and grade of the students that will make sure the students can learn our past U.S. history and read great literature from American and foreign authors that will enhance the learning of children.

Maybe the governor can stay in his lane, and propose to the General Assembly that the 89,000 public-school teachers in Virginia whose average pay is now only $55,000 a year be given an across-the-board $10,000 a year pay raise?

The teachers deserve a pay raise and it would be a good use of some of Virginia’s $2 billion budget surplus.

John Reeder, Arlington

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