C’mon teachers, get real

It’s easy to get “furiouser and furiouser” watching educated people kicking, not just looking, a gift horse in the mouth.

I don’t know who volunteered to anonymously donate $400,000 for incentives to help in producing better results in some of Metro’s most troubled schools, I know that they must be a generous and dedicated citizen.  However the “who” is not the central issue here—- what matters even more is that a majority of Metro’s teachers who participated in a recent Metro Nashville Education Association vote on accepting the gift, ultimately decided not to accept the contribution without bothering to offer a simple thank-you in the end.

And, please don’t get the impression that I am anti-union. In fact, I am anything but,  My father was a decades-long union member, and I have seen the good that has resulted  from union advocacy over the years; yet, there have been abuses during the unions’ storied history;  and I would undoubtedly place this action squarely in that category.

Because I have a background in fund raising with public institutions, I am also aware that not all donors give with pure motives and that not all gifts can be accepted, particularly if the terms are odious.  But, from what I understand after briefly studying this issue, the offer to the teachers was driven by a desire for results.  C’mon teachers, show us where there are true devils in these details.  You may quibble about small points, but what you have really done is throw the ‘philanthropic baby’ out with the incentive-laden bathwater.

Maybe entertainer Dolly Parton got it right when she pledged to aid students in Sevier County, where she grew up; offering $1,500 to every two-person team in the eighth grade that completed high school. Dolly’s current, and most recognized program, is to provide books every month to children from birth until the reach they reach first grade.  Every county in the Volunteer State is now participating. Clearly, no one asked the Metro Teachers’ Union to vote on that issue, thank goodness.   Since the benefits of Dolly’s program accrues directly to the kids, I am going to take a wild guess and say  that if parents had to vote on it, the support would have been overwhelming—-even if some found minor details with which to quibble.

When I heard the MNEA vice president say to Metro School Board Chair Marsha Warden’s query that she should “consider the extent to which your questions interfere with MNEA’s representational rights,”  before he closed with:  “The ice is thin,”  I sensed I was seeing the root of the problem. I believe the ice may be thinnest of all for his position.  It’s far better to do what is best for the kids than it is to stand on procedural stuff squabbling over a power issue.

My hope is the generous donor doesn’t do what most would under these circumstances and tell the school system to “forget it.”   I also hope that the more enlightened educators will muster some leadership and renounce the rejection of a well-intentioned attempt to address some of Metro’s public school problems.

And, unfortunately, maybe this unfathomable action opens our eyes to why some of those problems exist.


Bo Roberts is a Nashville marketing consultant and managing partner of Roberts Strategies.