|The State of the Labor Movement, Part 1: Assessing the Situation
Posted: 19 Mar 2012 07:00 AM PDT
Outside of Occupy Wall Street, I think the biggest change for the positive in the realm of political activism I’ve seen in the past few years is in the area of labor. Even before I started writing the labor beat at Crooks and Liars, I noticed unions doing more to reach out to activists and bloggers, working together more and finding new ways to deal with the political landscape in an era when Republicans and corporations are doing everything they can, it seems, to kill the labor movement. But working families and their allies have been fighting back harder than I’ve seen since I’ve been paying attention to politics.
So to help that movement go further along, I want to start a series of posts taking a deeper look at unions and their activism, both locally and across the nation. I’m going to contact the unions individually and ask them a series of questions digging into what they’ve been doing, what successes and failures they’ve had, and what challenges they see both for themselves and for the rest of the movement.
Before I get started, though, I need your help. I want to make sure that I get the full range of topics in my question list so I’m asking you for ideas on what topics I should ask them about so we don’t leave anything important out and don’t leave any stone unturned if it should be turned. So, in comments, let me know what topics you think I should be asking about. Here are the types of things I was thinking of at this point:
- Recent successes
- Recent failures
- Lessons learned from recent activity
- The state of the particular union and the field(s) it represents
- Biggest issues they face in their field
- The state of the labor movement in general
- Commitment to and actions towards diversity (gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.)
- Biggest challenges they face
- Biggest enemies that are coming after them
- Biggest allies they have worked with in recent years
- What tools they need to succeed
- What allies can do to help them
- What they are doing to help allies
- What is the next area they think the other side will attack on
- What do they think the future holdsWhat else should I be thinking about and asking about?
|Romney Admits GOP Education Policy is Intended to Kill Unions
Posted: 19 Mar 2012 06:00 AM PDT
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Republicans always say they want to get the federal government out of education. This comes in many forms, but usually they say something like “education should be returned to local control” or “I’ll eliminate the Department of Education.” They always avoid talking about union-busting because union-busting is not always especially popular. Wisconsin’s Governor Walker can attest to that.
Romney, in a rare moment of transparency, told Bret Baier that the reason for returning control of education to the states is for one reason: to union-bust.
But the role I see that ought to remain in the president’s agenda with regards to education is to push back against the federal teachers unions. Those federal teachers unions have too much power, in some cases, they overwhelm the states, they overwhelm the local school districts. We have got to put the kids first and put these teacher’s unions behind.
I’m sick and tired of seeing teacher’s unions demonized, and even more tired of seeing teachers shamed and demonized. There’s been a theme that Democrats and Republicans alike have adopted where teachers are the reason for problems in the schools. Teachers are not the problem. I would argue that teachers have been the backstop to keeping schools from deteriorating in the face of constant budget cuts, student poverty, larger classroom sizes, and not enough parent involvement. I don’t necessarily blame parents for that, by the way. When you’re working two jobs to make the house payments it’s tough to head down to your kids’ school or constantly nag about homework.
The problem in the schools right now is not teachers’ unions, either. The problem in the schools is that for ten years, teachers have been forced to teach to a test and “one size fits all” standards. They are accountable for an arbitrarily set baseline, regardless of circumstances in their specific area. As we’ve all discovered, that baseline does not necessarily reflect reality or the students they’re instructing, or the environments they’re teaching in. Yet their job hinges on meeting those standards. If they don’t, they’re out.
Unfortunately, reality never seems to matter to Republicans. Diane Ravitch wrote about the differences between Finnish schools and American schools recently. She points out that Finnish educators do not administer standardized tests until the end of high school. Before that point, they do evaluate students, but based on tests developed for their specific student populations.
Sahlberg speaks directly to the sense of crisis about educational achievement in the United States and many other nations. US policymakers have turned to market-based solutions such as “tougher competition, more data, abolishing teacher unions, opening more charter schools, or employing corporate-world management models.” By contrast, Finland has spent the past forty years developing a different education system, one that is focused on
improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability, and handing over school- and district-level leadership to education professionals.
To an American observer, the most remarkable fact about Finnish education is that students do not take any standardized tests until the end of high school. They do take tests, but the tests are drawn up by their own teachers, not by a multinational testing corporation. The Finnish nine-year comprehensive school is a “standardized testing-free zone,” where children are encouraged “to know, to create, and to sustain natural curiosity.”
Did I mention that Finland’s schools finished at the top of world rankings in 2009? They did. It had nothing to do with teachers’ unions, or local control. In fact, teachers are highly valued in Finland. When you hear Mitt Romney talk about wrecking teacher’s unions, do you have the impression teachers are highly valued?
As my youngest child nears graduation from a rural, public high school, I count myself fortunate to know that she had teachers who were Harvard and Stanford graduates who placed value not only on educating my daughter but caring enough about her to see her strengths and weaknesses and not stop until they addressed the latter and bolstered the former. Unfortunately, my daughter saw the unnecessary struggles that came with their efforts, the constant attacks by parents and politicians alike, and has vowed never to be a teacher.
I hope she changes her mind. She would be a gifted teacher in the right system with the right goals, but if Mitt Romney’s dream comes to pass, her vow would remain intact.
Full transcript follows:
BAIER: Governor, one of the standard lines in your stump speech is on spending and the test that you would apply in a Romney administration is a program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it. At the FOX/Google debate in September, you said without qualification, quote, we need to get the federal government out of education. Does this mean eliminating the Department of Education?
ROMNEY: Not necessarily. It may be combined with other agencies. There will be a rule, meaning that, for instance, the federal government provides funding to local school districts for care of disabled children, that will be maintained.
But the reach of the Department of Education into the states has to be pulled back. Education has to be managed at the state level, not at the federal level. Will there be any flow through of funds to the states? Yes. But the role I see that ought to remain in the president’s agenda with regards to education is to push back against the federal teachers unions. Those federal teachers unions have too much power, in some cases, they overwhelm the states, they overwhelm the local school districts. We have got to put the kids first and put these teacher’s unions behind.
BAIER: Do you still support No Child Left Behind?
ROMNEY: I support the principle of having states test their kids, and one of the things President Bush did that I supported, and I did support No Child Left Behind and do support continuing to test our kids. I want to know which school districts are succeeding and which ones are failing and where they are failing. I want there to be action taken to get the teacher union’s out and to get the kids once again receiving the education they need.
So, I like the idea of testing our kids. No Child Left Behind needs to be changed, I think in some pretty significant ways before it’s reauthorized. But I do support the testing that’s been associated with that program, and I’m glad that President Bush pushed for that.
|Mike’s Blog Round Up
Posted: 19 Mar 2012 05:00 AM PDT
|John McCain Claims GOP Needs to ‘Get Off’ of Issue of the War on Women After Participating in It
Posted: 18 Mar 2012 07:00 PM PDT
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As Think Progress’ Ian Millhiser pointed out today, John McCain’s newly found concern for “the right of women to make choices” is touching but a very recent development, since he was just voted for the Blunt amendment which would allow employers to refuse to pay for contraception as part of their health care plans on the basis of personal moral objections. Now McCain thinks that Republicans should “get off” the issue of the war on women. Too late now Senator. You’ve already let everyone know where you stand.
After Backing Anti-Birth Control Blunt Amendment, McCain Now Says GOP Needs To ‘Get Off’ War On Women:
Earlier this week, an Arizona state senate committee backed a “tell your boss why you’re on the pill bill” that would allow employers to demand proof that their employees are not using birth control for contraceptive purposes before their insurance will cover the pills. In an interview on Meet The Press this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slammed this assault on working women, and even urged his fellow Republicans to finally end their lengthywar on women’s reproductive health:
GREGORY: Are you concerned at all to see the focus, with certain elements of the Republican Party, on social issues? In your own state of Arizona, there’s this contraception bill that even the governor has said would put women in the uncomfortable position where they had to say to their employers why they wanted contraception, and why it should be covered — is that a bad road?
McCAIN: I am confident that that legislation will not reach the governor’s desk and if it did it would be vetoed. . . . It certainly does not reflect, in my view, the majority view of the people of Arizona.
GREGORY: Do you think that there is something of a war on women among Republicans?
McCAIN: I think we have to fix that. I think that there is a perception out there because of how this whole contraception issue played out — ah, we need to get off of that issue, in my view. I think we ought to respect the right of women to make choices in their lives and make that clear, and get back onto what the American people really care about.
|This Week: Rick Santorum Wants To Get One-On-One With Mitt Romney
Posted: 18 Mar 2012 06:00 PM PDT
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On today’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, guest host Jonathan Karl interviewed Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum as he touted himself as the “genuine article.” Pennsylvanians everywhere spit coffee on the morning paper as they watched:
KARL: Former Senator Rick Santorum joins us now. Good morning, Senator.
SANTORUM: Good morning, Jonathan. Good to be with you.
KARL: So, Senator, front page of the New York Times today has a big headline saying Republicans are girding for a fight on the convention floor. You have been saying this for days, saying that basically nobody can really get a majority of the delegates before the convention. Are you saying essentially that your best chance of winning this nomination is a fight on the convention floor?
SANTORUM: Well, we still believe that there are plenty of delegates out there for us to do what we have been doing, which is actually going out there and winning states and winning the tough battles, and doing so over pretty overwhelming odds. If you consider the fact that we’re, you know, to deal with Congressman Gingrich, Speaker Gingrich, who is in this race and certainly pulling more votes from us than he is from Governor Romney, and being outspent. You know, here in Illinois, when I was just there yesterday, you know, by 10 to 1, yet we’re hanging in there, we’re fighting, we’re climbing, because we have got the best message, the best contrast with President Obama and the best vision for our country. And I think that’s what people are responding to, and I think they’re getting tired of the negative ads. They’re getting tired of just tearing down the other side, which is what Romney has been doing now for two elections in a row, and really providing no real vision for the country.
KARL: But how likely do you think it is that this is going to come to a battle on the convention floor? As you know, this is something that Romney has said would doom the party’s chances against Barack Obama?
SANTORUM: I don’t it dooms anybody’s chances. Look, this is a primary process where somebody had a huge advantage, huge money advantage, huge advantage of establishment support, and he hasn’t been able to close the deal and even come close to closing the deal. That tells you that there’s a real flaw there. And the fact that we’re able to do this, just by having a, as I said before, a great message, and the American people, Republicans and conservatives, lining up behind us — enthusiastically doing so — fighting the establishment, you know, clawing our way, you know, into contention here. It just tells you that people are looking for something different, they are looking for something that they can, you know, go after President Obama and make the contrast.
You know, as I was saying yesterday out on the road in Illinois, I mean, there’s just — there is increasingly — the more I look at the record of Governor Romney and match it up against Barack Obama, I feel like I’m doing a training run for the general election. The same issues I’m out there campaigning on against Governor Romney are the same issues I’m going to campaign against Barack Obama on, which is, you know, the government overreach in health care, and cap-and-trade, trying to control the manufacturing and energy sector of the economy. And of course, you know, the bailouts. All of these things are — you know, unfortunately Governor Romney and Barack Obama are in the same place. So that’s one of the reasons you are not seeing him close the deal is mandates.
Remember when he just said people are “getting tired of just tearing down the other side”? Ha ha, just kidding!
KARL: Are you saying that there’s not much difference between Romney and Obama?
SANTORUM: On those issues, there clearly isn’t. And as you know, Jonathan, those were the issues that really spurred our victory in 2010 was this idea of government mandates and control of the economy, and you know, the bailouts, and the attempt to try to take over the energy use in our country through cap-and-trade, and of course the successful takeover of the economy, Obamacare. Governor Romney is on the same page as Barack Obama on all of these issues. And that’s what, again, you see conservatives all across this country rejecting someone who they don’t see a difference between this president. We can’t be out there nominating someone who gives away the most important issues that conservatives care about in this election when it comes to the economy.
That’s funny. I could have sworn that the Republicans won in 2010 because of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and the economy! Oh yeah, the economy — and the stealth ads that went unanswered that so erroneously painted Democrats as working to cut Medicare. But maybe that’s just me.
KARL: You know, Gingrich has suggested, Newt Gingrich has suggested that he’s actually helping you out here, that by staying in the race he’s making it harder for Romney to get a majority of the delegates. I imaging you don’t see it that way, but if this — you believe this is a two-man race. Is it time for a head-to-head debate, you against Mitt Romney?
SANTORUM: I would love to have a head-to-head debate with Governor Romney. The idea, for example, you know, he pushes back and says Romneycare is nothing like Obamacare and he never advocated for it, which of course he did, in op-eds as well as on television programs. And even in the 2008 election, when he got up and was questioned by Fred Thompson in the 2008 election, Governor Romney said mandates, I love mandates. Mandates work, this is what we need to do, we need to force people to buy insurance, and he defended his record in Massachusetts, and in fact argued for exactly what President Obama put in place, was a government-mandated health care program at the federal level.
I would love to be able to get one-on-one with Governor Romney and expose the record that would be the weakest record we could possibly put up against Barack Obama. And that is again, why I believe ultimately, you know, we did very well yesterday in Missouri. I think we’re going to do really, really well in Illinois, even though we’re, again, you know, we’re being outspent, and of course Congressman Gingrich is on the ballot, and certainly the speaker is taking a lot more votes from us than he is from Governor Romney. But still, we’re hanging in there because people are seeing, they’re coming around to the fact that we can’t nominate such a weak candidate in the general election.
Yep. The mandates that the Republicans suggested! You remember, the insurance company insisted on them and as we know, Republicans never say no to the insurance companies.
KARL: OK, well, I just heard from you a challenge for a head-to-head debate against Mitt Romney, and I will in turn give you an invitation. We can do it right here on This Week. Are you in?
SANTORUM: I accept. I’d love to do it. I — see if Governor Romney is willing to come out. He’s been turning down every single debate. He’s hiding behind the billionaires who funding his super PAC and spending outrageous amounts of money, all running negative ads, tearing down the opponent on specious issues, not talking about the issues that people are talking about at their kitchen table. And in fact, a lot of the criticisms that he’s leveling against me are things that he himself has done, and in fact far worse, like giving money to Planned Parenthood personally and funding abortion clinics while he was governor of Massachusetts with taxpayer dollars. I mean, this is someone who will say anything to get elected, and I think, again, people are recognizing they want the genuine article.
“The genuine article.” I can tell you here in Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum is known as anything but. He’s the con artist who scammed a local school district into paying for his children’s distance-learning program — after he moved his entire family to Virginia, yet pretended to still live here. Staunch conservative? More like a political opportunist.
And finally, Rick the Family Man? All I can say is, as his profile rises, expect to hear more on the matter. If you don’t, Romney’s oppo research team just isn’t doing its job.
|Haley Barbour Suffers From Bush Amnesia on Jobs, the Economy and Gas Prices
Posted: 18 Mar 2012 05:00 PM PDT
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While I agree with Haley Barbour that for the United States to have a real recovery from this recession, we’re going to need to see better jobs numbers and economic growth than we’re seeing now, he seems to be suffering from a bout of George W. Bush-amnesia with his arguments placing the blame entirely on the Obama administration for the jobs numbers not being better during this panel discussion segment on This Week.
Barbour harkened back to the Reagan administration to tout Republicans success at job creation, conveniently ignoring the fact that we were hemorrhaging around 700,000 jobs a month when Bush left office. He also seemed to forget that gas prices were actually higher under the Bush administration and that Bush didn’t have any more success than the current administration in getting OPEC to open up their spigots. Barbour was also allowed to claim with no push back that more domestic drilling was going to lower gas prices or create jobs, which it won’t as Paul Krugman pointed out this week.
Sadly, no one bothered to point out to Haley Barbour that for the first time, we have a political party in the United States doing everything they can to sabotage the economy on purpose rather than see President Obama be reelected and that they deserve a good deal of the blame for the economy not recovering quickly enough as well.
Transcript below the fold.
KARL: Governor, what’s your take? You heard — you heard a good sense of where they’re going to come at you?
BARBOUR: Well, it — just from here –
KARL: You’re not a flat earth guy, by the way, right?
BARBOUR: Just hearing you and David talk, just as a reminder, the American people are being told by the news media, by the liberal media elite, how great the economy is. Well, the economy is not great out in America. Maybe it’s gotten a little better. But it kind of reminds me of an old country song from my youth, the lyrics were, “I’ve been down so long it looks like up to me now.”
And if you take in America today, last month, according to the Census Bureau, 58.6 percent of adult Americans had a job. Except for the Obama administration, you have to go back to 1983 to find a time when that small a percentage of Americans were working and 10 percent of them were working part time.
So, yes, we have had some improvements on jobs. Lord, we need a lot more, because the last real recession we had in the 1980s, we were creating jobs at 500,000, 600,000, 700,000 a month and we weren’t out bragging about creating jobs at 200 and something thousand a month.
KARL: I mean, Bill, you guys can’t run on it’s morning in America, right? I mean it’s — people are still hurting.
BURTON: Well, I think the Clint Eastwood ad that it’s halftime in America is probably a little more accurate. But if you look at the difference between –
KARL: That did look like a political ad, didn’t it?
BURTON: Listen to Karl Rove it certainly was, from Republican Clint Eastwood, by the way.
But if you look at where our country is versus where it was, 3.5 million private sector jobs created over the course of the last couple year, the economy growing instead of contracting, things moving in the right direction, yes, things are getting better, but not at a pace where the president has demonstrated any satisfaction.
I don’t think anybody is bragging necessarily that we’re where we need to be. I think what you have is a difference between the president saying that we’re moving in the right trajectory and the Republicans who are saying we’re almost about to fall off a cliff. America is in the — its darkest moment.
The American people are hopeful and optimistic about where this country is going. And I think that that is ultimately is going to be a big difference in the election and how people see this campaign.
HENDERSON: You do — I mean, you do see Romney sort of reframing this and Santorum as well, saying the economy is a little getting better.
I think, oh, Romney this week said we are at — in fact, in recovery, you can imagine that’s probably going to be in a campaign ad for Obama at some point. And I think you see Santorum in some ways this can’t be a campaign that’s all about the economy, it has got to be about social issues. You hear him in that –
KARL: — could lose the edge on economy.
HENDERSON: That’s right. That’s right. So that’s why he’s expanding. He’s — apparently wants to talk about pornography in some way, and that certainly, I think, energizes the base. I mean, we talk about whether or not this is going to be damaging now for the Republicans in the fall, but I think one of the things that it’s doing, this protracted race, is keeping the base energized.
If they feel like they at least had a shot at this thing with Santorum as a candidate, and in the end, they lost, I’ve heard from Republicans that that would be essentially satisfying to them. They would feel like they, you know, they had their voices heard.
KARL: Are we going to be fighting this on pornography and contraception and –
BARBOUR: — you know, 2010 was the greatest referendum of an incumbent president’s policies in decades. And this will be a referendum on his policies, despite the fact that Bill and his friends would like for it to be anything but.
And the big policy right now that people are concerned about is the energy policy, because terrible energy policy for three years has brought about very high gasoline prices and other energy prices.
And the president says correctly, there’s no silver bullet.
When you have had three years of terrible policy, designed to drive up the cost of energy, so Americans would use less of it, whether it’s the Keystone XL pipeline, the moratorium in the Gulf, the least amount of offshore drilling lands available that we’ve had in decades, all of those things are going to lead to very high energy prices, which after all, is what the president’s Secretary of Energy called for.
He said what we really need in America is to get the price of gasoline up to where it is in Europe. Well, they’re halfway there.
|This Week: In Memoriam
Posted: 18 Mar 2012 04:30 PM PDT
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(h/t David at VideoCafe)
This Week with George Stephanopoulos notes the passings of three soldiers killed in Afghanistan:
US Army SSG Jesse J Grindey, 30, Hazel Green, WI
US Army SPC Daquane D Rivers, 21, Marianna, FL
US Army 2LT Clovis T Ray, 34, San Antonio, TX
According to iCasualties, 2,930 allied service people have been killed in Afghanistan.
In addition, the following notable names passed this week: Doobie Bros. drummer Michael Hossack, union and women’s rights activist Madeleine Parent, Princess Anna of Saxony, WWII pilot Joe Stanley, and Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria.
During the last week, Iraq Body Count lists 57 Iraqi civilians killed. Although we don’t have contemporaneous information for Afghanistan, the latest counts list 3,021 Afghan civilian deaths for 2011 and 12,793 since 2006. Not surprisingly, Afghan President Hamid Karzai declared that he was “at the end of his rope” over the killing of civilians on Friday.
|Blue America Preview: Patsy Keever (D-NC)
Posted: 18 Mar 2012 04:00 PM PDT
Remember when Patrick McHenry tried to humiliate Elizabeth Warren at a committee hearing? I believe Patsy Keever is about to turn the tables on North Carolina’s tiny little reactionary. If she beats him, Congress will suffer one less corporate shill. Tuesday, Patsy will be joining us for a live discussion here at C&L– 2pm in North Carolina/11am PT.
The first we ever heard of North Carolina state Rep. Patsy Keever was a year ago when she was running for the legislature and had been pointed out by Progressive Kick as a future political leader of consequence. At the time we wrote this of their effort to elect progressives to state legislatures:
All their candidates are progressive leaders with real backbones, unlike some Democratic members of Congress who we’ll have to hold our noses to vote for in order to keep a majority. Many of the candidates in this effort will be the progressive congressional candidates of the future. Does this sort of thing work, you ask? Let me share a couple of success stories with you, direct from candidates who have benefited. Patsy Keever is currently the progressive Democratic nominee for North Carolina House District 115. After winning her primary last month she wrote Progressive Kick that “I originally decided to run for the NC Legislature when I read in the local newspaper that my current legislator was ranked at the very bottom of all NC legislators by the nonpartisan organization, Environment NC…. I was up against all the ‘powers that be’ in the state, and it was a real shot in the arm to get the surprise support from Progressive Kick at a time when we were unable to get support from the groups I had expected to have… we won our primary by a 60 – 40 margin against an entrenched incumbent who outspent me five to one…”
Blue America has been urging Patsy to run for Congress for the last several months and recently she decided to. The Republican legislature has gerrymandered her district so that she would now take on ridiculous right-wing clown Patrick McHenry, a dedicated servant of the 1% from his perch on the House Financial Services Committee– and someone with a very sleazy past that has never been adequately examined. The DCCC is pushing a Blue Dog-type, Asheville mayor Terry Bellamy, who would fit right in with Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre, the two North Carolina Blue Dogs who stick with Boehner and Cantor on almost everything important that comes before the House. The new boundary lines are quite a bit friendly for Democrats than the old lines. In fact this is how the party registration breaks down:
It has long been a contention of Blue America that Congress has enough lawyers and enough millionaires– in fact, way more than enough. Patsy has a different background and it’s what has motivated her political career. Before winning office, she was a school teacher. I asked if that was important in her political development. She responded with this guest post:
Public Education– The Path To Social Justice
-by Patsy Keever (D-NC)
As a teacher, I have many causes, but my real passion is social justice, and public education is the path to a just society. Public education is the backbone of our democracy. The majority of my 25 years of teaching was in 8th grade social studies and language arts, although I have taught students in every grade from kindergarten to soldiers in the Army. Teaching was a career which I loved, but the lingering illness and subsequent death of my husband ended that career prematurely. He was a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange in 1970 and developed a very aggressive case of prostate cancer 30 years later. When I realized that he was never going to get better and that I probably didn’t have much time left with him, I left the teaching profession.
Although I am no longer teaching, my passion for leveling the playing field remains as strong as ever. I still fight for those children who live in poverty, whose only chance of a better life is a good education. I still care about the students who need to be challenged and those who have far too many challenges at home. As a state and nation, we need to invest in our children from a very early age all the way through college and beyond if we want to develop citizens who can and will contribute to our society.
For 25 years I have watched the Republican party pick away at our public education system. They have tried to treat our schools as a business which turns out a product. It is not a business! It is a service our government provides in order to maintain a just society. The question is how do we develop each individual to reach his or her potential to be a functioning, successful member of the community. Vouchers and charter schools are not the answer. Defunding good programs and instituting unfunded mandates are not the answer. Adding more students to each classroom while decreasing support systems for teachers is not the answer. Teachers, parents, students, businesses, elected officials and entire communities must find ways to work together for the good of all. Our lives depend on it.