News & Politics

Why Don't Teachers Get the Respect They Deserve? Republicans Would Rather Destroy Schools Than Raise Taxes on Millionaires

Schultz: "They got more millionaires in New Jersey than they do teachers, but we got to have the teachers pay for everything."

The following is a transcript from part ofEd Schultz's March 1 broadcast on MSNBC

ED SCHULTZ: Governor Scott Walker has leveled the largest assault on public education in the history of the state of Wisconsin.  Late [on Tuesday] thousands of locked out protesters stood in the cold and chanted while Governor Walker gave his budget address inside the capitol.

“The A.P.” reports Walker‘s budget includes, well, nearly a 9 percent cut in aid to schools which would amount to a reduction of nearly $900 million.  The governor also proposed requiring school districts to reduce their property tax authority by an average of $550 per pupil.  So much for a commitment.

Here‘s how the governor put it during his speech:

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Just as we reform our entitlement programs for the 21st century, we must also reform our education system.  Clearly, we have to produce graduates who are able to compete not only with their peers from Chicago or Des Moines, but also from Shanghai or Sydney, and we want to do so while we balance a $3.6 billion deficit.  That is why even as we reduce school aids, overall, we give schools across the state the tools to make up for those reductions with even greater savings through the budget repair bill. Again, this is why it‘s so vitally important for the Senate Democrats to come back home and do their jobs.  If they do not, our schools face massive layoffs of teachers.

SCHULTZ:  No threat there.  This is a classic Republican logical thinking by the way they see the world.

Walker is going to help Wisconsin school children.  He‘s going to help them compete by cutting nearly $1 billion from public education?  You think that‘s going to work?

Walker blames 14 Democrats for massive teacher layoffs when he‘s the one that‘s cutting the budget?  Democrats don‘t want this.

This isn‘t just about an attack on teacher unions.  This is an attack on every taxpayer in the state of Wisconsin and it seems to be contagious.

Cities would get nearly $60 million less in state aid in Walker‘s budget plan, an 8.8 percent cut.

Counties would lose over $36 million.  That‘s a 24 percent reduction.

And the legislation—get this—would outlaw local governments‘ ability to increase property taxes except to account for new construction.

Now, think about that.  If they have a shortfall of money coming into their district and they say, “Well, you know, let‘s get our community together, our town together and decide what we‘re going to do”—no, can‘t do that.

This is now big brother on the scene.  This isn‘t local control anymore.  If cities can‘t raise property taxes to cover Walker‘s cuts in education, and that would be a local decision, teachers are going to get the ax and public education is going to be put on life support in many communities in Wisconsin.

And as I said, this is contagious.  This is the new Republican plan to go after budgets in America.  This is exactly what Republican governors like Walker have always dreamed of.  They‘ve been on a mission to privatize public education for years so they can make money.

Republicans can‘t stand the fact that public education isn‘t about the almighty dollar.  The demonization of public education in America—can we come it a conclusion tonight that this really has to stop?  Because we have to take a closer look at what we‘re doing to the future of our country?  And it‘s all starting with the workforce, isn‘t it?  The teachers.  We got to go after them.

Let me remind Americans tonight that nobody goes into teaching to get rich.  They do it because they love helping people.  They love the reward of seeing kids reach their potential.  It takes a special person to be a teacher.

But governors like Walker want teachers to bear the burden of shared sacrifice.  Walker refused.  He refused to raise taxes on the rich.  But he wants to stick it to the teachers who average—don‘t let me knock you off the couch tonight—folks, a whopping $51,000 a year.

It‘s not just Wisconsin.  Over in Ohio, Republicans are going after teachers—well, they‘re really over paid, they‘re making $54,000 a year.  And across the river in New Jersey, Chris Christie wants you to believe, he wants you to believe that a teacher who makes $63,000 a year is rich.

Christie and Walker, what they want to do and Kasich and other Republican governors, they‘re watching this closely across the country and how they can do it in their state, they want to crush—and I mean crush collective bargaining and pin the blame on the teachers unions.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE:  What I believe in is true adversarial collective bargaining.  All these rights are legislatively created.  They didn‘t come down from tablets at the top of a mountain.

The union, Bob, they protect the worst of the worst.  That‘s what they‘re there for.  They make it impossible to fire bad teachers and it‘s ruining our education system.

SCHULTZ:  Bad teachers?  Let‘s see, I give some statistics later on in this broadcast tonight to tell you just how long these young kids who go into teaching, how long they last and why they leave.  Christie hasn‘t done his home work.

I said at the top of this broadcast tonight that this is personal to me.  Every time I talk to a teacher in Wisconsin when I was on the road a couple weeks ago covering this story I thought about my mother.

My mother was a high school English teacher.  Ironically, she went to Montclair State in New Jersey, teachers college at the time.  She taught English at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia.  She had three accelerated classes and three regular classes.

My mother, she graded papers until the wee hours of the morning.  She got her kids off to school every day.  And when she came home in the afternoon, she was still grading papers, and then she was working on lesson plans on Saturdays.  And then she was grading papers on Sunday afternoon.

My mother was a teacher.  And I saw my mother love what she did.  She used to take tremendous pride in knowing that John Ruff (ph) went off to the University of Virginia and became a doctor, see what kids were graduating from what college and she took a tremendous amount of pride in being part of helping that student in their education.

And I know in my heart that teachers haven‘t changed over the years even though my mom died years ago and came from a different generation.  They‘re still same.  I know they‘re the same because I was in that crowd at Madison and I looked in the eyes of those teachers.  They haven‘t changed a bit.

But you know what‘s changed in America?  Our priorities and our conversation is not as serious about education as it should be.

Now, we have teachers who are nothing more than political tools, pawns.  They‘re bargaining chips in negotiations is what they are.  We don‘t value them the way they used to.

But I can guarantee you that teachers value what they do.  They care about their students the same way my mom did.  They cared about where they went after high school and they still do today.

But that story is not being told.  That story is lost in the conversation because now you see teachers are just making too much money.  And their health care package is too good.  And they‘ve got a pension that they are responsible for through compensation and collective bargaining, but governors who want to give tax breaks to the rich, they want to make those teachers pay.

And you know what they‘re doing?  This philosophy is running young teachers out of the industry.  And we don‘t have the quality teachers in the classrooms that we could have as a nation if we really straightened out our priority list in this country.

I have followed these protests closely.  And we are talking about educated professionals, people who have college degrees.

Back when I was a kid, college degree was pretty cool.  It was revered.  You kind of had to have it if you wanted to move on.  That was the standard and your teachers pushed you to go to college.

It‘s a little different world right now.  There‘s a lot of different ways to make a living.  But through the years, I‘ve seen us chip away at teachers and chip away and devalue what the they do and, of course, as Governor Christie said, there‘s a lot of lazy ones out there and so many bad ones we don‘t have a way to get rid of any of them.

Do you think that other teachers want to teach with other teachers who are not competent?  No.  They don‘t.

You see, they just don‘t have the media outlet.  They don‘t get the spotlight.  They don‘t get the microphone.  They don‘t get the editorial board space to tell America what it‘s like to be a teacher and what it means to them to see young people succeed in America and compete in the world.  That‘s their dream today.

And how many teachers out there, I‘ll ask you and you can send me an e-mail tonight at [email protected] and tell me, have you ever bought any materials for your classroom because you didn‘t have enough money coming from the school district?

Back in the ‘70s when my mom did that, I couldn‘t believe she did it.  But she said the classroom needed it and she didn‘t want to hassle with the front office and it was just easier to do it this way and she knew she could help those kids.

There‘s a lot of those teachers today that sacrifice their own pay to pay for supplies in the classroom because of the under funding that‘s taking place.

You know, I‘m going to get partisan here.  The old Democratic Party would have never let this conversation get out of hand the way it has.  The new Democratic Party needs a lot of work.  They need to do a lot of patchwork and get their act together and go on the march for teachers in this country and realize that we are preparing tomorrow‘s workforce right here.

Teachers play more of a role in economic development than anybody who wants to take a chance on a stock price on Wall Street.  It‘s the infrastructure, the guts, the heart and soul, the minds of America that we are neglecting.  Why?  Well, we now have adopted the attitude in America that, why the hell should I pay for your kid to go to school?

We‘re back to that?  Yes, we are.  We really are.

You know, Governor Christie, I think it‘s great that your kids go to private school.  It‘s America.  You can do whatever you want to do, and I think there is a place for private schools in America because some people just like it that way.

But don‘t pick on the rest of us.  You know, the one thing about a private school is they can control who can come in.

But the one wonderful thing about public education in America is when the doors open up, everybody‘s welcome—the gifted, the talented, the challenged.  The socio economically challenged kid can walk in the door and have a chance to learn and his or her only hope, because that home life might not be the best, their hope is that teacher.

And now we want to cut that teacher and now we want to make the case to America that they make too much money and they‘re really not good at what they do?  Even though they‘re people with college degrees and more and more teachers today are getting higher degrees like masters degrees because they love what they do and they invest in their careers?

How about tax credits for teachers who want to expand their horizon and get maybe a PhD?  Is that a good idea?  Or is that being too liberal?

I went to the protest in Trenton, New Jersey, the other day and I ran into a teacher and I asked her a few questions about the budget.

SCHULTZ:  What if you were to tax the rich?  What if he were to add—

KATHY AILING, FORMER TEACHER:  You mean not repeal the billionaire or the millionaires‘ tax in New Jersey?

SCHULTZ:  You‘d go along with shared sacrifice?

AILING:  Yes.  Of course.

SCHULTZ:  But the way it is now?

AILING:  It‘s not shared.  It feels like it‘s not shared sacrifice.

SCHULTZ:  So, it‘s not shared sacrifice because, of course, the governor doesn‘t want to raise the taxes on the rich folks over there.  And we all know that the governor is winning this fight, right?  He‘s Mr.  Popular for the Republican Party across America?

Well, 72 percent of New Jersey voters favor restoring the millionaires‘ tax Christie vetoed.  Is that leadership, listening to the people?

And how about the income for people in New Jersey?  Hey, look.  I‘m not picking on New Jersey tonight.  Your governor is the one that‘s fronted on the national spotlight who can‘t keep his mug off the national shows because he thinks he has all the answers, although he‘s never been in a classroom as a teacher.

He comes from Wall Street.  He comes from being a lobbyist.  He comes from being an attorney.

Well, let‘s see.  New Jersey has the third highest percentage of millionaire residents in America.  Damn near 7 percent of the people that live in New Jersey are millionaires.

New Jersey millionaires, how many of them are there?  Well, there‘s 212,000 of them.

How many teachers?  A hundred and twelve thousand.

They got more millionaires in New Jersey than they do teachers, but we got to have the teachers pay for everything.  We can‘t raise the taxes on the rich folks over in New Jersey, maybe the top 2 percent maybe giving 1 more percent?  Nope, can‘t do that.


Ed Schultz is host of the Ed Show on MSNBC.
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