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United States Department of Education and the Circular Firing Squad

America has progressed much since 1979, and it is time to re-envision the role the US Department of Education will play moving forward in policy. It is likely any problem or challenge facing public education is best resolved at the local or state level, not by the federal government.

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The creation of the United States Department of Education in 1979 was a payback to the teacher unions who endorsed then candidate Jimmy Carter for President of the United States in 1976. It was passed over the objections of both Democrats and Republicans. It was supposed to save the taxpayers money. Stop me, if you have heard that one before.

It is highly unlikely the Department of Education has delivered any budget savings or a helped simplify any education programs. Now that Betsy DeVos has been named Secretary of Education, the unions have engaged in a fruitless war with DeVos. Henry David Thoreau wrote: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” In this case the problem is not Betsy DeVos. It is the federal bureaucracy itself that is the problem.

The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Can you list an irrefutable positive consequence on the academic performance of school children in the United States as a direct result of the involvement of the federal government since the creation of the United States Department of Education?

Chester Finn, a former Assistant Secretary of Education (1985-1988), believes the principal reason unions wanted a federal Department of Education was for “the political power and prestige to seek bigger budget increases for federal education programs.” If Finn is accurate (and I agree with his assessment), union efforts have become a circular firing squad for educators. The unions will continue to spend political dollars to elect pro-union candidates to maintain that political power, with little regard to helping actual educators in the field. Too often they are hindered by their blatant fondness for political correctness and support of non-educational issues.

For local teachers, administrators and school districts, the US Department has added bureaucracy and increased the amount of paperwork required. The subsequent standardizing education and standardized tests are detrimental to creativity and innovation. Schools are often regulated to death. Tennessee, a big recipient of Race to the Top funding, has resumed concentrating on our own education problems and issues. It is imperative that we re-engage parents at the local level, who were often defenseless against federal dollars in their community. Effective programs and policies must be identified at the state level and shared in similar communities and among each other here in the state.

America has progressed much since 1979, and it is time to re-envision the role the US Department of Education will play moving forward in policy. It is likely any problem or challenge facing public education is best resolved at the local or state level, not by the federal government. The federal government could take an appropriate role in gathering data to assess how well certain programs and grants are working, along with awarding Pell grants, and other federal financial aid through loans while providing guidance over state policies to prevent racial and religious discrimination.

The founders never envisioned a robust role for the federal government in education. Yet here we are. I believe in a limited federal government, including limiting the federal role in education as much as possible. What do you think?

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. Follow him on social media via Twitter at @jcbowman.

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Teach Today

The goal is to insure a “great teacher in every classroom.”

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) along with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) launched their newest initiative, Teach Today, Change Tomorrow, to attract the best and brightest students/adults to become teachers in the state of Tennessee. The goal is to insure a “great teacher in every classroom.”

Joining SCORE CEO Jamie Woodson was TDOE Commissioner, Candice McQueen, Representative Harold Love, and Metro Nashville’s (MNPS) teacher of the year, Cicely Woodard. Even though Tennessee does not have a teacher shortage in every area, they do lack certified teachers in STEM, Special Education, World Languages and English Language Learners (ELLs). Recruiting teachers in these areas along with an emphasis to recruit “students of color” to become educators is the focus of this initiative.

Representative Harold Love stated that while 35% of Tennessee students were students of color, that only 15% of Tennessee teachers were teachers of color. To encourage more young adults of color to attend state Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs), the TDOE is offering grants to EPPs and to districts that will encourage the training and hiring of educators of color.

Another facet of SCORE’s Teach Today, Change Tomorrow campaign is the Ambassador Program. Some of Tennessee’s finest educators are going throughout the state to share why they are dedicated to teaching and how they can change lives. It is the desire that the Ambassador Program will encourage young people to become teachers and make a difference in their state/nation/world. Ambassador Cicely Woodard is an 8th grade math teachers who states “I teach because kids in Tennessee deserve teachers who will support, champion and live for them.”

Woodard states she has also found many opportunities to become a “teacher-leader” as she facilitates professional learning and has an open door for student-teachers and others to observe her classroom. As a teacher-leader, she knows she has the impact to not only change the lives of her students, but those of her colleagues and community.

To find out how you can be more involved in the Teach Today, Change Tomorrow initiative, please go to their website http://www.teachtodaytn.org and follow them on Twitter @teachtodaytn.

Poverty & Education

Poverty, in itself, is a very uncomfortable topic. It is a dark cloud that looms in the backyard. It is a whisper that passes by individuals who, rather than confront it, tiptoe around the idea whenever they hear it brought up. But, like it or not, it is a conversation that we need to start having.

Many Americans believe that the major problem within public education is the lack of focus within the administration of a school. They even go so far as to blame the teachers for not providing the adequate time and skills needed for their child to grow and learn on a day-to-day basis. This type of mentality is wrong. As much as we can over analyze the various policies and red tape that go on behind the scenes in these schools, it is imperative that we become more aware and cognizant of the overarching problem that has plagued our schools for years, poverty.

Poverty, in itself, is a very uncomfortable topic. It is a dark cloud that looms in the backyard. It is a whisper that passes by individuals who, rather than confront it, tiptoe around the idea whenever they hear it brought up. But, like it or not, it is a conversation that we need to start having. For many of our schools, especially those that are failing, poverty is right behind it. Many of these well deserving students are held back from incredible opportunities to grow because of lack of funding or lack of resources. This should not happen.

But why is it happening? Why is it a problem?

More than 16 million children are growing up in poverty, meaning that 22% of all children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level of $23,550 a year. Research has shown that children living in poverty have a higher number of absenteeism and dropout rates than those coming from middle class or higher.

Now how does this affect the classroom, and how can we address it as educators?

Lacking a Strong Foundation

For our students, children who grow up in low socioeconomic conditions typically have a smaller vocabulary than middle or higher-class children do, which increases the risk for academic failure. Much of this attributes to lack of exposure. Whether the words are spoken or read, low socioeconomic households will in most cases not be able to provide their child with that elementary foundation. In the classroom, this lack of exposure can impact various lesson plans and achievement for both the teacher and the student. To resolve this type of problem, educators should try and incorporate vocabulary practice on a daily basis. More exposure to new and unique words can enrich the student in successful ways.

Student-Teacher Relationships

Many teachers, especially new teachers to the field, find many students in low-income areas to be behaviorally difficult and inattentive to the work. It is easy to blame the student, but we need to understand their background and their stories. One reason why many students seem unmotivated toward schoolwork is a lack of hope or optimism related to their outside problems. Low socioeconomic students often deal with problems bigger than themselves. Whether they are financial hardships or absent guardians, these types of negative problems can take a toll on the mentality of the student, causing them to act in a very brash and hasty way.

Disruptive home relationships often create mistrust in students. Feelings toward parent or guardian figures that have often failed students at home can be projected onto adults at the school. Classroom misbehaviors are likely to increase because of these at-home instabilities. One thing a teacher can do to aid the situation is to build a relationship with the student. Establishing a relationship with the student can benefit you as well as the overall classroom. In addition, providing positive reinforcement can give the child the necessary confidence to perform on an academic basis. Understanding, listening, and talking with a child can provide you a strong advantage, especially later down the line.

Performance on Assessments

Studies have shown that children from lower socioeconomic background often perform below those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds on state exams. Many students coming from specific communities are found to struggle with core subjects such as reading, math, science, etc. In addition, many of the schools that the students attend lack the necessary resources and teachers to provide them the foundation to develop these core skills. A school can help nullify this problem by strategically analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each of their students. By having this type of data, a teacher is able to break down lessons so that their students can be successful.

There are no easy solutions. We must be willing to admit there is a problem and openly discuss the issue. Government cannot solve all of our problems. Poverty must be challenged community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, classroom by classroom and home by home. Together we can inspire, and we can identify needs and marshal resources to meet the challenge. Together we can defeat the issue of poverty.

Inspire… Instruct…Involve.

We must remember we are all connected.  Only by working together do we have a chance of turning adversity into opportunity. To build our organization and to deliver top quality opportunities for our members as we grow our organizations we need greater collaboration.

Learning does not always translate into action. In spite of significant investments in professional learning, awareness of research, federal mandates and persistent achievement disparities, the knowing – doing gap persists.

Effective leaders take a systems view of human performance.  They embrace their responsibility to coach and manage behavior and implement appropriate interventions to ensure high performance.  The union tends to be an obstacle to these efforts, but we must partner with existing networks within state and together as an organization.  Professional Educators of Tennessee leaders should:  Inspire… Instruct…Involve.

Culture Still Matters

Our public schools are integrally situated to communicate society’s values, such as individual responsibility, patriotism, integrity, objectivity, justice, respect for others, being on time, doing a good job, working well with others, being a good citizen, and exercising democracy in government and other interactions. 

We now live in a world where borders apparently don’t matter. The activities of corporations operating in multiple countries simultaneously, as well as travel being readily accessible, and networking possibilities of the Internet and social media render national borders somewhat less significant.  Then we need to ask the question:  Is culture still relevant?

Yet, William Bennett, a rather brilliant man and former US Secretary of Education, made an observation last year that politics and public engagement in social issues can make more of a difference than he once thought. Bennett is rather philosophical, and his opinion still carries much weight among policymakers and media.

To take it a step further, examine the words of Richard Shweder: “I believe that all the good things in life can’t be simultaneously maximized. I believe that when it comes to implementing true values there are always trade-offs, which is why there are different traditions of values (i.e., cultures) and why no one cultural tradition has ever been able to honor everything that is good.” People fail to consider there is no perfect society despite our historical attempts at creating it.

Debates on culture also include our conflicting orientation on matters such as secular versus religious, our concept of freedom along with our trust or distrust in the leadership of those who govern us. Culture impacts the success or failure of a certain aspect of society, such as health, education, institutions, justice, national security as well as other policy issues.

Thomas Jefferson wrote of the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal; endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This endures as the powerful philosophical and moral foundation of the American republic itself.

On the subject of freedom in culture, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his State of the Union Address he delivered on January 6, 1941, stated that American’s looked forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. Roosevelt may not recognize the current age, but his points are worth a reminder.

  • The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
  • The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
  • The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
  • The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

Samuel Huntington, a political scientist at Harvard University, suggested that there are a set of eight cultural “civilizations” who are a major influence on current culture–Western, Eastern Orthodox, Latin American, Islamic, Japanese, Chinese, Hindu, and African. This explains our present-day struggles across the nation and the world, as well as repeated conflicts between countries and cultures.

Another major theme Huntington puts forward was that we have moved from a bi-polar competition between communism and democracy/capitalism to a geopolitical battle fostered by a multi-polar world of competing civilizations. In regards to immigration in our own country, that is manifested by the failure of people to assimilate into American society and culture.  He argues that could eventually change our nation into one where multiple languages, multiple cultures, create multiple peoples.   This is also a direct conflict with the concept of the founding principles of our nation.

Huntington wrote: “September 11 gave a major boost to the supporters of America as one people with a common culture. Yet the war to deconstruct our culture has not ended. It remains unresolved today whether America will be a nation of individuals with equal rights sharing a common culture, or an association of racial, ethnic, and cultural groups held together by hopes for material gains.”

Orwellian logic from which the principle that “All animals are equal” gives birth to the transformative postscript: “but some animals are more equal than others” when we are only focused on material gains. Equal rights are a common goal that culture should embrace.  As we consider culture, we have to see how this becomes applicable to public education, and what role should public schools plays in building a common culture, if any?  The time for discussion is now.

The United States is a diverse country, racially and ethnically, as well as in how people choose to organize themselves socially and politically. It can be argued  that our public schools are integrally situated to communicate society’s values, such as individual responsibility, patriotism, integrity, objectivity, justice, respect for others, being on time, doing a good job, working well with others, being a good citizen, and exercising democracy in government and other interactions.  Americans have thus far kept our republic, and created it to be resilient and strong.  However, the United States will remain free only with relentless vigilance and public engagement, which must be transmitted in our culture.

Certainly we can do more to improve opportunities for all students. Public education has done an excellent job of positioning our state, nation and students for success.  Our ethnic identity and culture is rapidly changing.  The question we must ask ourselves, is that always for the better?  If we are not careful, we may risk losing what made America the envy of the world and a continual place of liberty and opportunity for our citizens. Educators must be the ones that provide hope, opportunity, and optimism for the subsequent generations.  In the end, history will prove that culture matters.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. Follow him on social media via Twitter at @jcbowman.

Tennessee Teacher Bill of Rights

Tennessee State Rep. Jay Reedy & Professional Educators of Tennessee lobbyist/COO, Audrey Shores explain how the Tennessee Teacher Bill of Rights came into existence and what they means for Tennessee educators.

Teacher Dismissals Often Arbitrary

There is little doubt that many teacher dismissals are arbitrary. Too much of public education is still subjective, rather than objective. Teacher assessment is a difficult task and generally is not done with exacting measures.

Why are teachers dismissed? Sometimes teachers are not a good fit at a particular school. Despite well-meaning efforts and good intentions, it just doesn’t work out. What is an administrator to do?

Many times in fact the teacher is simply dismissed. I think this is a poor strategy, and reflective of mediocre management. Especially, if an administrator’s first reaction is to simply get rid of a teacher. Keep in mind we are not talking about an incompetent teacher. As an organization we understand teacher quality matters.

Often the problem is not about ability. Sometimes it is that a new teacher doesn’t fit in socially. And schools can be cliquish. It takes some time for a new teacher or a veteran teacher relocating to a school to make new friends or build a relationship with other faculty members.

Think about it like this: if a teacher does not get quickly embedded to school culture, they jeopardize their entire career over social factors. That doesn’t seem fair.

There is little doubt that many teacher dismissals are arbitrary. Too much of public education is still subjective, rather than objective. Teacher assessment is a difficult task and generally is not done with exacting measures. That means we are letting good teachers walk out of our schools, never to return. This may due to bad luck by an inappropriate school assignment, lack of support by other educators or unreasonable but powerful parents/guardians. It could also be bad management by school administrators who fail to create a manner in which teacher improvement is attainable, or some other unknown factor.

Another scenario that is beginning to escalate is the loss of veteran educators. Some districts may be targeting veteran educators for dismissal or simply encouraging them to retire or move on. This leaves a greater number of less-experienced teachers in some schools. This could prove to be harmful to students, particularly socio-economically disadvantaged and urban schools.

Of course, teacher burnout is often higher at socio-economically disadvantaged and urban schools, and districts. And if we are truthful, we must acknowledge that problems that go along with poverty undeniably make some kids harder to educate, and are not so easy to address—especially for beginning teachers. The problem is much greater than who the teachers in a school may be.

Research points out that people who suffer job loss may go through some predictable emotional stages that may include lowered self-esteem, despair, shame, anger, and feelings of rejection. Teachers are no different. We need to examine ways to intercede and work to give our educators the benefit of time to improve. Yet we must recognize that the most important task of a teacher is the education of the student. A school district must start with support, before it moves to accountability.

At Professional Educators of Tennessee, we regularly seek input of our members to design necessary professional learning opportunities to help the teacher in the classroom, as well as the administrator who wants to assist their staff. We have developed a collaborative relationship with many districts built on this premise and want to make sure all children have great teachers.

Education is not as simple as manufacturing widgets. It cannot be measured by charts, graphs or standardized tests, despite many who believe it so. So, before you fire a teacher or damage a career or a person, we hope that an administrator has exhausted every means at their disposal to invest in that educator and help them reach their full potential. In our opinion, an administrator’s number one objective outside the education of children is to provide support to our teachers.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. He is on Twitter @jcbowman

A Debate Worth Having

Common sense reminds us there is no “one size fits all” approach to public education, but we will hear ideas from politicians that will want to empower state and federal education agencies, rather than permitting those doing the work at the local level in districts to have more flexibility.

Every politician in America is for the education of children. Common sense reminds us there is no “one size fits all” approach to public education, but we will hear ideas from politicians that will want to empower state and federal education agencies, rather than permitting those doing the work at the local level in districts to have more flexibility.

When polls are conducted, it is always other schools rather than the ones in our own community that people are unsatisfied with. That is fascinating. And it is what politicians and those spinning the message capitalize on with voters. We have to fix some school 50 miles away, so we punish the whole system and give more power to the state. Seems like an odd way to make policy.

The balance between accountability and responsibility imbedded in federal education policy and programs still dominate public policy. Dr. Allene Magill, Executive Director of our sister organization, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators points out that the: “measure, pressure and punish model sets our students, teachers and schools up for failure.” She is right.

Public schools have an incredible product and unparalleled success and need to tell that story. However, they have to be perfect every single day. For example, if a child is let off at a wrong bus stop one time, it condemns an entire system. That is a problem most private schools do not have to tackle. In addition, teachers in private schools know that they have the support of the administration and the parents. If you could give public school teachers the same level of support and they would also thrive. Likewise, we must explore ways to give school districts more freedom from state and federal control.

Education Historian (and liberal scholar) Diane Ravitch remarked: “Presidents Bush and Obama and the Congress have bet billions of dollars—both federal and state– on a strategy of testing, accountability, and choice.” Instead, what if we had passed legislation that allowed districts to seek exemptions from all state statutes, rules, and policies except those that deal with electing school boards, public meetings and records, financial disclosure, conflict-of-interest, and sunshine laws? In return the district would establish performance goals, measures to assess progress, and a time frame for accomplishing the goals and each community would look different and innovation would thrive. Sounds like pretty conservative education policy to me.

I have little hope that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos can navigate the swamp of Washington, DC any better than her predecessors. It was former President Barack Obama that made news when he recognized the fact that public schools needed to cut back on testing to only 2% per year. He seems to have conveniently overlooked the fact that testing increased on his watch while he was President. Forget all that you know, it is election year.

Tim Farley, principal of an elementary/middle school in upstate New York wrote that the Obama testing policy of 2% cap on time spent on standardized testing would actually increase the time spent testing students. Farley asks: “What does that actually mean? In New York we have 180 school days and an average school day runs about 6.5 hours. If one does the math that’s 180 x 6.5 x 2% = 23.4 hours of testing. So, by law, we cannot exceed 23.4 hours of standardized testing in grades 3–8.

Farley continues: “This begs the question — How much time do kids in grades 3–8 spend on the state tests in English/Language Arts and math? If you are a general education student, you will spend roughly nine hours in a testing room for both the ELA and math tests. If you are a student with a learning disability (SWD), and you have a testing accommodation of “double time,” you get to sit in a testing location for eighteen hours. As insane as that seems, it is still 5.4 hours short of the time allowed by law. A 2% cap isn’t a step forward; it’s a giant leap backward.”

Farley concludes: “How much testing is too much? I don’t know the magic number that will give the state education departments and the U.S. Department of Education the data they supposedly need in order to determine the effectiveness of the schools, but I do know that nine hours of testing is too much for a nine-year-old, eighteen hours is abusive for nine-year-olds with a learning disability, and 23.4 hours of testing for a child at any age is criminal.”

We have been fortunate to have a great relationship with politicians on both sides of the political aisle here in Tennessee. They understand that our focus will be on educators and children. No educator I have ever met was afraid of being accountable for the work they do in the classroom on behalf of children. But most educators will agree the “measure, pressure and punish model” is not working. Yes, we have had incredible gains on tests, but can researchers honestly say that it is a result of “a strategy of testing, and increased accountability?”

It is time to for policymakers to deliver for communities the promise of locally-controlled public education for all children. Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins in a recent article, “Republicans and the lost promise of local control in education” floated the “radical idea of returning to the Constitution” on education issues. That is a debate worth having.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. Follow him on social media via Twitter at @jcbowman.

Teachers Have a Choice

We offer a modern approach to teacher representation, legal protection and unmatched educational advocacy, as well as promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda.

Teachers have a choice in what teacher association they choose to join. We hope they will join Professional Educators of Tennessee.  As an independent, Tennessee -focused professional association, we keep our membership dues low by ensuring that our dues dollars are put to good use meeting the needs of our members, not supporting a national union.

In fact, our dues are so reasonable that you can cover the $189 cost simply by taking advantage of our various benefit programs.  Contrast that to the roughly $600 union members pay for less legal coverage and benefits.  Educators are also consumers and should expect quality services at an affordable price. You won’t have to look for the fine-print on our application just to see what you are joining.  Many Tennessee educators dislike the concept of forced “unified dues” and are opposed to the militancy of teacher unions’ nationwide (See NEA and AFT websites for your own comparison).

Unions continue to put roadblocks in place to prevent their members from exercising their freedom of association. Often they will use any legal means at their disposal to combat members who want to resign. Take, for example, the difficulty in terminating automatic drafts to pay membership dues. Unions often place a narrow window of opportunity for employees to drop union membership and escape the requirement of paying union dues or fees. For educators, that date may be limited to summer months and are designed to be inconveniently timed for members. In addition, unions blatantly will contribute to political candidates.  Make sure you read the fine print of the membership form prior to joining even though the fine print is so small you can barely read it. Our membership form is here for comparison.

You will find that our organization, Professional Educators of Tennessee, is NOT engaged in aggressive political partisanship. We are NOT involved in a wide-ranging social agenda on issues unrelated to education. We leave that to our union friends.  We do NOT file frivolous lawsuits.  You will never hear us brag about political contributions to play politics in Nashville, or any other city.  We do NOT endorse political candidates, nor do we use our member’s dues for political contributions.  Most teachers, either on the left or the right, do not chose education as a career choice because they enjoy politics.  They just want to teach while leaving political pursuits to their personal lives, not their professional ones.  That is one of the major reasons we have become the fastest-growing education association in Tennessee, and we are trusted by both sides of the political aisle.

ProEd has been around since 1979, but we were largely limited by state laws that favored the teacher’s union. Strikes and boycotts are detrimental to students and to the reputation of teachers as professionals.  Educators understand they are not “labor,” they are a professional and deserve to be treated with the respect that demands.  That is why educators, administrators and school personnel should unite with a professional association.  That distinction guides the professional image we project on our member’s behalf across the state, as well as the services we provide to our members.  We are proud of being a professional organization whose members come from all aspects of the educational systems in our state.

In addition to excellent legal protection, professional learning, networking and career resources, along with opportunities for leadership, there is no doubt that joining a professional organization that benefits educators. Our advocacy efforts carry significant weight with legislators, and other policymakers. We choose to collaborate, not separate, which is a natural choice for a group that is member-owned and member-driven.

No matter how good an educator is, or how great a district is, it only takes one incident, one new principal, or one angry parent to make an educator realize they need our support. Bad things happen to good educators every single day. Our in-house attorneys and statewide network of lawyers know education law and will always be there for you—whether you need us or not. No other educators’ association matches the protection offered by Professional Educators of Tennessee. Our Educators Professional Liability Insurance Policy includes up to $2 million in professional liability insurance.  Access to our legal service benefits is never dependent on the discretion and pre-approval of an organization executive. Access to your legal protection is not dependent upon whether your case is determined to be in the best interest of Professional Educators of Tennessee, as it is with some other organizations.

When you call our office you will talk to a licensed, experienced attorney who can assess your situation and recommend options. Your conversation is always protected by the attorney-client privilege.  That doesn’t happen when you speak to a “union rep” from another association, and we will never take action that you have not approved. Some join just for the insurance, and that’s fine. But you may be surprised at how frequently you will want to use our other services.

We are the first in Tennessee, and thus far only, teacher association to provide free online continuing professional education to our members, and many of those courses are TASL-accredited.   We regularly update our offerings to ensure our members have the latest information to help you in the classroom.  Through on-going professional learning, our members can enhance their competence and confidence, build leadership, which will lead to increases in student achievement.

Mickey Kaus, a blogger and the author of “The End of Equality,” and former Democratic candidate for U.S. senator from California, wrote:  “the answer of most union leaders to the failure of 1950s unionism has been more 1950s unionism.” That is what makes Professional Educators of Tennessee different.  We offer a modern approach to teacher representation, legal protection and unmatched educational advocacy, as well as promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda.

Every teacher is unique and has various reasons for wanting to join an organization. Even if you decide to join another organization, we feel it is important that every educator is a member of something. We must all work together to make Tennessee a better place for students to learn and for teachers to teach.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. Follow him on social media via Twitter at @jcbowman.