We have mentioned the petition started by Saraland high school teacher Justin McNellage several times.  This has now been signed by more than 5,000 people.  If you haven’t signed, please do.  And circulate it to others to do the same.

Hundreds of folks have not only signed, but left comments.  Reading them is very revealing as you can easily tell how heartfelt they are.  Teacher after teacher talk about their classroom and their daily challenges with students who have learning disabilities, come from abusive homes, wonder what they will have to eat on the weekends, etc.

Almost to a person they feel they are not respected by legislators as professionals   They speak of their love of students–and their exhaustion.  Many are considering leaving education due to unrealistic expectations.  They worry about the increasing teacher shortage and say they would not encourage their own children to be teachers.  They are dismayed that legislators with very little knowledge or understanding of education insist on putting policy in place that makes little sense.  The don’t understand why legislators listen to people from outside the state–but will not listen to those who teach in schools in their own hometown.

Each comment is identified by the name of the person who made it, and where they live.  Last Saturday I spent hours going through 1,327 comments one by one and noting the county where the writer lived.

Here is what I learned:

Comments came from 60 of our 67 counties.  (And a number came from outside the state as well.)

The top five counties were Jefferson (318); Calhoun (131); Madison (119); Shelby (112): and Mobile (108).  However, these same counties rank Jefferson (1); Calhoun (10); Madison (3); Shelby (5): and Mobile (2) in total population.  Senator Del Marsh of Anniston is sponsor of RAISE.  Almost 10 percent of all comments are from his home county.  (And remember that less than 30 percent of those who signed the petition left comments.)

This indicates to me that a great many of Marsh’s constituents do not agree with this legislation.  Senator Marsh wants to run for governor in 2018.  He would be smart to think about these numbers and what he is doing to his own base.  He probably should also talk to Congressman Bradley Byrne who ran for governor in 2010 and from the get-go, alienated the education community.

Senator Marsh is a bright guy and a smart politician.  You don’t become President Pro Tem of the Senate unless you are.  But if he wants to be governor, he should strongly considering LISTENING to educators instead of DICTATING to them.

Finally, a number that jumped out at me was that Winston County, which is smaller than 42 other counties, had 44 comments.  Obviously a large percent of educators there have serious doubts about RAISE.  I was in Haleyville on a very wet night two weeks ago for a gathering of legislators and townspeople.  I was amazed at how many folks turned out, the great majority of whom were teachers.