Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Why is it when people want to attract and keep teachers as voters they talk about paying for college-level classes, increasing the tax deduction for teacher-purchased school materials and increasing salaries? How many of you that teach get letters from state legislators and national leaders telling you what they have done for educators in the past session? While I appreciate hearing what they have done and benefit from their work, I also know why they do it: because it’s good public relations and will ultimately increase their chances of being re-elected.

All candidates make promises to different groups of voters—and our 5th District Congressional candidates are no different. Al Weed has an entire list of education initiatives, while Bern Ewert lists only one education item in his “Strengthen and Expand the Middle Class” section. When it comes to education, Bern has a plan on only one subject. He is using the “paying for classes” ploy in his attempt to get the Democratic nod for the 5th District and ultimately the Congressional seat in Washington. However, when it comes to the schools in the fifth district, he obviously doesn’t have a clue about what is being done about his issue in the area.

In Cumberland, we have a tuition assistance program for both teachers and administrators taking classes. While some apply for reimbursement of classes needed to get or update their certification, others are working toward advanced degrees. While the fund is “first come, first served,” the funds are there and the amount available increases each year. In addition, grant funds are available for annual professional development, additional college classes, reduced rate classes, and tuition-free classes. Our paraprofessionals have benefited over the past three to four years from free classes offered by the school system to assist them in meeting national certification requirements.

Additionally, there are specific programs for teachers to meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates. In Region 8 (which includes Cumberland) and in other Superintendent’s regions across the state, there are highly qualified workshops that will help special education teachers meet the increased requirements for teaching students with special needs. Other programs are being offered for Earth Science teachers, math teachers, etc. So funding is already available—on more than one level.

I have always said that if I was in teaching for the money, I would not have stayed at Cumberland all these years. I appreciate those candidates who want to bring money to the localities to make things better overall—not just spouting pipe dreams of free college classes and, ultimately, degrees. The realities of NCLB do not support those promises. If the federal government will not fully fund that program to support the students (who are the “Child” in NCLB), what makes Bern think that the federal government will subsidize college classes for teachers across the nation? Let’s get real here—there are more pressing issues in education in this area than that. He should do a little research of his own.


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