Giving a Beep for Education?


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I participated in a sign-waving event on Monday in support of my fellow teachers in my district and around the state who continue to pay the price for conservative tax cuts and relentless attacks on our profession and our schools.

Sign waving is the least we can do. While teachers across the nation are winning significant concessions including meaningful pay raises, Florida teachers and other public employees are forbidden to strike. The FEA website summarizes the penalties for even encouraging a strike.

“The penalties placed on public employees who strike are swift and severe. If you strike, you can be terminated, action may be brought against your certificate, you will lose all of your retirement benefits, and if you are ever reemployed, it will be on probationary status for 18 months and your salary will be frozen for at least 1 year at the level it was when you began the strike.”

So sign waving after work and making mass statements at school board hearings with our red shirts is pretty much what we have as far as direct action.

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It’s not so bad. We bring our case to the public. It was heartening that so many people showed support for our cause by beeping their horns and giving a thumbs up or waving at us.¹

Perhaps I’m jaded after two decades of holding signs for one cause or another but as these beepers were driving by, smiling, thumbs jutting into the air, I couldn’t help but think, ‘sure, you’re willing to beep to support me and my peers, but who did you vote for?’

This is no small question. I live in a very conservative area. When you say “tax-cuts” the collective response is so orgasmic you practically need a shower afterward. So it’s very likely that a good percentage of those beeping their horns are also those voting for my pay cut.

It’s not that they are not sincere in their beliefs. They believe teachers should make more money. They believe classes should be smaller. They believe teachers should be treated as professionals. They are willing to beep their horns to show their beliefs.

But when it comes to actually paying us, paying for more teachers and larger schools, paying for the resources necessary to do this job professionally…


…they don’t give a beep.

When I tell people that I’m a teacher, or I talk about teachers’ issues, someone will always come out and say, “I really respect teachers. You guys should make a lot more money than you do.” Many of the people who say this I know to be dedicated conservative Republicans. I used to just smile and accept their compliment. I used to keep my mouth shut, but now I don’t.  I tell them about themselves.

If you voted for Rick Scott, you don’t give a beep about teachers.

If you voted for Ron DeSantis, you don’t give a beep about teachers.

If you voted for Francis Rooney, you don’t give a beep about teachers.

If you voted for Ben Albritton, Lizbeth Benaquisto, Kathleen Passodomo, Ray Rodriguez, Dane Eagle, Heather Fitzhagen or Spencer Roach, our state level reps, you don’t give a beep about education.

As it stands, in Florida at least, if you vote Republican, you don’t give a beep about teachers, schools, students or public education.

Maybe, conceptually, you think these things are really cool, but you are not willing to do anything more meaningful than beep your horn to demonstrate your support.

And yes, this is a partisan thing. Whereas there are some Democrats who don’t give a beep about public education, most Democrats do. There are no Republicans in Florida who give any kind of beep. This last election cycle the only candidates who ran on a pro-public education platform and a pro-teacher platform were Democrats.

So giving a beep is nice, but if you really give a beep, you’ll give your vote.

If not, please don’t expect me to smile and nod while you mindlessly confer on me your shallow respect for the work we do and surface acknowledgment that we don’t make anywhere near what we are worth.

We know this. That’s why we are standing in the damn street waving these beeping signs!

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  1. There was one “fuck you!” but that goes with the territory.

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