If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years fighting government waste, it’s that there is no end to bad ideas coming out of Jefferson City. I understand that COVID-19 has made times tougher, but even in tough economic times, the state should never look to make changes to teacher retirement. Some politicians may eye the money set aside to pay teachers as something that can be borrowed against — raiding teacher retirement to fund the state’s own programs. I am not one of them, and I never have been.
To raid teacher retirement would be a betrayal to Missouri’s teachers. Our teachers accepted their initial employment package with the promise and expectation of that retirement — they’ve worked years and built their lives around the promise of retirement. The state cannot backslide on its commitments to teachers, especially now. Teachers have sacrificed so much in the face of COVID-19 — they’ve had to stay late, devote hours and hours to online learning, all the while trying to keep student education going.
We have had a long string of bad ideas coming from politicians who think they can do a better job of running the classroom than teachers can. I’ve heard from many teachers, and they are asking for the freedom to be creative in their teaching. I have seen the switch from teacher-led to government-led over the years. I personally attended public schools. I am also a parent who put all of my children through public schools and now a grandparent of a child in the public school system. In my opinion, we have had way too many blunders in our public education system over the years through added regulations and requirements — all pitting our students as one size fits all.
For example, one of the worst policies we have seen around the country has been the Obama Administration’s Common Core and its legacy. Nothing is worse than a panel of bureaucrats dictating how teachers should teach and students should learn. Most importantly, we do not need liberal ideology for our students in Southeast Missouri. A set of one size fits all curriculum is ill-fit to help prepare our students for adulthood. We need to prepare students for the real world, including a return to technical and practical skills training.
I believe we need a greater focus on technical training. Recently, there has been too much pressure on teachers to get students “college-ready” when some of the best-paying, most widely available careers out there are in the trades. Many of our local businesses are looking for young people with technical training and employees that are able to work with their hands. If we want our economy to recover quickly after COVID-19, we need to recognize that the trades are every bit as valuable and desirable as a college degree.
Our state still faces tough decisions regarding what education will look like in light of COVID-19. I believe that local teachers, parents, and administrators need fewer regulations coming from the Department of Education and more freedom to be innovative and creative as they teach their classrooms. Oh, and again, we need to keep the government’s hands-off our teacher’s retirement.
State Rep. Holly Rehder is a Republican who represents HD 148.