- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 7, 2001

Fairfax County teachers unfortunately are captives of a school bureaucracy and a self-serving union that do not seem to encourage professional excellence (“Fairfax teachers protest low pay with work limit,” Metro, March 4). Public demonstrations by teachers, as we saw recently in the shadow of the county government building, are the teachers´ only recourse because the trade union has had little to do with improving learning in the classroom. The union has a severely limited vision of what the schools should be and has functioned only as a wage lobby, sometimes protectionist, sometimes obstructionist. The union has defined a teacher´s worth by his or her wage.

The teaching profession ought not be reduced to a wage alone. It will take more than salary to attract the kind of teachers we really want. Good teachers will come if they are offered the freedom to teach and are not gagged and censored by political correctness or tormented by lawsuits and mountains of administrative work. Sadly, Fairfax schools do not offer the freedom that could attract good teachers.

Looking back at my own time in schools, I would trade hundreds of hours spent in clean, well-lit classrooms for a few minutes in the presence of a truly great teacher. Plato, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha inspired their students in the shade of a tree. Are they remembered for the beautiful buildings in which they taught? Have those teachers, who shaped history, been criticized for their lack of up-to-date classrooms?

The voting, tax-paying public would be far more willing to accept more funding and larger salaries for teachers if it had confidence that the Fairfax County School Board and the school administration could improve education with an infusion of dollars. However, the annual plea for more resources draws skepticism and resistance, and justifiably so. Fairfax has a school board that cannot budget, even within the loose limits offered each year by the tax-hungry Board of Supervisors.

The school board members should do the basics of their job, prioritize spending, economize and program for such expected demands as population growth, building maintenance and equipment obsolescence. This is not rocket science this is what they were elected to do. If Fairfax County schools can improve their performance, confidence and resources will follow.


Falls Church

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