August 30, 2016
As school begins, remember to support your educators
By Rep. Dave Considine
Dave Considine represents the 81st District in the State Assembly. The 81st District includes Baraboo, Sauk City, Prairie du Sac, Portage, and many other communities. His office can be reached at (608) 266-7746 or via email at Rep.Considine@legis.wisconsin.gov
Recently, I sat down with the Baraboo Education Association (BEA) to talk about my past experience with the union for their newsletter. As a former member and two-time president of the BEA, it has always been important to me to support the educators that care for our kids every day. With Labor Day coinciding with the start of the new school year, now is a great time to acknowledge their hard work and reflect on Wisconsin’s educational future.
I was a special education teacher for a total of 29 years. When I had been teaching for almost 12 years, I found myself being taken to court after having to restrain a student, as many special educators are trained to do. At the time, I had no interest in being a part of the teachers’ union. I didn’t understand why I had to pay dues to an organization that seemed to do nothing for me. I didn’t agree with the group’s positions, and I didn’t feel they represented my views. But when the Baraboo School District’s attorney called the Friday before my court date to say they couldn’t represent me, the South Central Education Association (now CESA Region 5) came through for me. I was immediately contacted by the WEAC legal team, and that following Monday, my case was thrown out by the judge.
I have told this story several times. It was part of my first speech on the floor of the State Assembly; I shared it with the BEA; and I have told it to friends, family, and neighbors. It happened over a decade ago, yet it still shows the importance of not only supporting teachers, but our unions as well. There has been a great deal of talk (especially in Wisconsin) in recent years suggesting that teachers and their unions are the problem with education. Unions have been framed as the enemy, only existing to protect bad educators and ignore good ones.
I am sharing my story because that characterization of our teachers and unions is simply not true. First, because the picture of education in Wisconsin today is just not that simple. With so many different types of schools, perspectives, teaching styles, students, and family structures, it is unfair to try to distill our educational system down to just “good” and “bad”. We need to look past this simplistic view and find ways to work together for what’s best for our children and grandchildren.
Second, the view of unions as the “enemy” is untrue because in reality, our unions help build up our communities. When my local teachers’ union stepped in to represent me in court, I felt supported. Because of that support, I was able to go back to my job as an educator and keep contributing to the Baraboo community. Without my union, I likely would not be where I am today. But without my involvement, even as I disagreed with their views, the union would never have been able to provide that support to me and so many other educators.
So as we celebrate Labor Day and the contributions unions have made in many fields, I encourage you to also take this opportunity to celebrate the teachers around you as they begin another school year. We can agree that Wisconsin’s educational system needs improvement, but educators are not the enemy, and neither are their unions. Instead of being divided by harsh rhetoric, let’s consider how we can work together to support our teachers and strengthen our teachers’ unions. And educators, please consider joining your local union! I didn’t believe in mine, and they helped me anyway. If you don’t like the policies or views of any organization, the only way to change it is to get involved.