Now is the time to speak up for public education

By TEA Executive Director Terrance Gibson

Fall is an exciting time in our schools and it presents opportunities for educators.


We learn so much during the early weeks of the school year about our students. The fall season also brings football games, harvest dances, festivals, and parent-teacher conferences. We see the structure of our classrooms and school climates take shape as we find the balance in pedagogical style for varying students’ needs. Fall allows us to build and strengthen relationships with colleagues as we team teach and learn from one another.


Fall also presents opportunities for educators to engage with the adults who can impact educator working conditions and student learning conditions: elected officials. Fall is a great time to engage with policy makers and elected officials prior to the legislative session starting in January. Last year we saw elected officials vote to adopt legislation intended to silence educators’ voices by legislating how we maintain membership in our professional organization. No other licensed professionals in our state were attacked or insulted through such legislation. This demonstrates that there are elected officials who feel educators should not have a voice in making the rules, regulations and policies that govern our schools and their working conditions.


TEA knows educators are the true trained EXPERTS on teaching and learning.


Now is the time of year when we start to hear rumors about what laws or policies members of the legislature may want to introduce or amend. This is why it is so important to have crucial conversations with these elected officials while they are still home in their districts. Educators must be thought partners with state leaders about what is best for students, schools and the profession.


I urge educators to engage with their elected state legislators prior to January. We must ask what legislation they plan to introduce or support and discuss with them the potential impacts on our students and educators.


We must ask questions like


• How have they gathered data from educators and students about potential legislation that would improve our schools?

• What current laws or policies do they plan to amend to make schools better?

• What current programs do they feel are working in the schools that are at risk if Tennessee loses federal funding?

• What is their position on rating schools A-F in your community?


As educators we use fall to prepare for winter and spring assessments, recitals, plays, capstone projects and more. We must also use this time to inform and engage our elected officials on what is best for our schools and profession.


I challenge you to engage elected officials and policymakers, whether in the grocery store, your places of worship or the area sporting events. They need to hear from the real experts: public school educators.