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The Consent of the Governed

Dear Colleagues,

Apologies for the tardiness of my first weekly post, but even as I write this, I am flying home from spending several days in Washington, DC, where I was lucky enough to attend the NEA Foundation’s annual Salute to Excellence in Education. It was a remarkable evening, full of people who are fierce and passionate advocates for public education, talking about the remarkable gifts and sacrifices of our profession.

Since I was visiting with my niece, a first time tourist in our nation’s capitol, we did a lot of the things that I have come to take for granted. We visited the Smithsonian museums, saw Lincoln’s top hat. We visited the Capitol Building and marveled at the rotunda. We visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and mourned in silent awe at the names of the many who had given their lives for this country.

Of course, we visited the National Archives, a quiet shrine to the idea that those in a leadership position derive their authority directly from the consent of the governed.

Naturally, my thoughts turned to you.

Having a collective bargaining agreement in this country is becoming an endangered right. In states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, these rights are being routinely stripped away by politicians who insist that a worker’s right to demand what is fair and just is one that is subject to debate. In Kansas last week, the state legislature heard from a representative who said that, because taxpayers pay a teacher’s salary, she should not be able to direct those dollars to political advocacy or union membership. Unfortunately, these stories are no longer the exception. Instead, they are becoming all too familiar.

Your bargaining team returns to the table tomorrow, with the sacred duty of doing everything in our power to improve your working conditions so that you can be empowered to educate, inspire, and change lives. That honor is one that we do not take lightly, and for the classroom teachers sitting at the table, it is one that requires a great deal of sacrifice as well. Leaving the classroom for days on end is difficult, especially with the knowledge that your colleagues are counting on you to improve their working lives and to fight for what is right. It is the kind of sacrifice I know they are honored to make.

I will spend the coming months sharing with you what we are trying to build, soliciting feedback, addressing any misconceptions, justifying decisions made on your behalf, which are always grounded in what the entire membership has asked for. In the spring, you will tell us if the choices we made on your behalf were the right ones. Personally, I think that they are, and I stand in awe at the new worlds we could be about to explore together.

In the end, as always, you will decide.

In the meantime, I will be at the San José Unified Board of Trustees meeting this Thursday, February 14th, to hear the Board’s decision on yet another charter school application in our district, and I will advocate against it, again, if necessary. If you would like to be my valentine that evening, the meeting starts at 6 p.m. Details will be posted on our Facebook and Twitter pages as well.

In the meantime, don’t forget to submit your nominations for Teacher of the Year. It’s a small way to honor colleagues you know are doing great work.

In the meantime, if you need anything, we are here for you.

Jen

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