Home News Minnesota Educator Minnesota Educator: August-September 2021 Let’s join together for the future of public education

Let’s join together for the future of public education

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Denise Specht

How would you know if you’re in an important historical moment?  

It’s the sort of contemplative question you find around campfires and porches on summer nights.  

After a few of those conversations with colleagues and friends, I believe we’re in one of those moments. And only a few people have noticed. 

What we do together as a union in the next few months will affect our schools for years to come. Lasting success is possible, but so are haunting failures. 

The anti-equity movement sweeping across the country threatens years of work in making our schools more safe, welcoming and effective for all students. 

While a few billionaires and the promoters who work for them may talk about critical race theory, this movement is more than a pedogogical debate about history lessons. 

Listen to the angry and misinformed speakers at school board meetings. It’s clear they oppose a more honest history of race in America, but that’s not all.  

They also protest any program or policy that might inspire more understanding and respect for people of color and LGBTQ+ youth. 

Educators cannot allow the prejudices of a few to deny our students the education they need to live and lead in the multiracial, multicultural world. 

Instead, it’s time to speak up for today’s students while also bargaining for policies to benefit future learners.  

There is money on the table after the state Legislature passed the largest increase to the per-pupil formula in 15 years. The federal government is pouring millions more into schools as part of the COVID-19 relief packages. 

This is the moment to work in union to ensure the new money flowing into schools is spent equitably and effectively—while acknowledging every worksite has unique needs and priorities.  

The situation is ideal for the flexibility of bargaining for the common good. I invite you to get involved with your community and your local to set the right priorities. 

If the national backlash against equity policies and the unprecedented amount of money on the table for bargaining this cycle wasn’t enough, we’re entering the second fall of the COVID-19 pandemic—and new cases are rising again. 

As I write this, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued contradictory guidance for wearing masks in schools this fall. 

When such prestigious scientific institutions can’t agree, it seems to me that educators will need to stick together to make sure whichever guidelines are adopted are done safely, sensibly and fairly.   

After all, within the past 18 months, many educators were asked to return to their classrooms before their districts could supply safety gear or were ready to socially distance their students. 

Let’s also not forget that some district administrators refused to pay hourly educators for the time they missed work because they were in quarantine or waiting for a test result to come back—even after the federal American Rescue Plan offered a dollar-for-dollar repayment of the district’s costs. 

Overcoming the national coordinated attack on education equity, spending millions of dollars in new resources and managing the tail end of the worst public health crisis of the century is not something any of us can do alone. 

We need to remember the value of belonging and the power of working in union toward our shared goals. If we do, we can rise to this moment for the good of our profession, our students and our communities. 


Denise Specht 

Twitter: @DeniseSpecht 

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