By TEA President Beth Brown
During college, I saw the musical Rent, the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive in the face of a looming crisis. One of the most memorable songs in the musical is “Seasons of Love” (if you know it, sing along):
525,600 moments so dear
How do you measure, measure a year?
Twenty years later, I am struck by the parallels depicted in that production and the current reality for Tennessee’s students, educators, and schools: Tennessee’s public schools face a funding crisis. Schools do not have the resources they need to adequately meet the various and growing needs of our students, and the majority of educators must have at least two jobs in order to provide for their own families, and are often forced out of the profession altogether. The result is a resource shortage that is hurting our kids.
So, what do we do about it?
Let’s spend some of our 525,600 minutes educating our colleagues, families, and friends about the challenges—and opportunities—ahead of us. Share about the real problems we face in our schools when students do not have access to counselors, nurses, or other specialists; to current and meaningful curriculum; and to clean, safe learning spaces. Share with everyone in your personal and professional circles about the opportunities we have in 2020. Instead of stuffing state tax revenue into reserves, Tennessee should be investing in our public schools. For the past five years, Tennessee has generated huge revenue surpluses and is on track to do it again this year; these are millions that could be going into our classrooms.
Let’s spend some of our 525,600 minutes communicating with legislators. It is critical that those elected to represent us hear from us…often. Call. Email. Visit, both at home and in Nashville. Join us in Nashville for Civication. Legislators need to know that we expect them to do what’s right for our public schools. They need to stand with our public schools now—to vote for their districts—so that we can stand with them in November when we vote in their districts.
Let’s spend some of our 525,600 minutes at the Rally for Our Schools on March 16th. We are taking action to fight for equitable and adequate funding for ALL public schools. We are taking action to fight for the professional, living wage educators deserve. We are taking action to put an end to the test-and-punish system that unfairly targets teachers, students, and schools based on TNReady scores. We are taking action to get back to focusing on what is best for students: More time for one-on-one attention and instruction, learning critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and creativity through a well-rounded education will set our children up for academic success.
The year 2020 will be critical to the future of public education in Tennessee. We have 525,600 minutes. Let’s make them count.