All elected officials should spend time in the classroom
by ALLISON CRYER
Any elected official that makes decisions about our state’s education system should have firsthand knowledge of the students and educators their decisions are affecting.
Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy shows that he knows it is important for our state elected officials to get first-hand knowledge of what goes on in the classroom, and has stood by his commitment to substitute teach one full day several times a year in a Baton Rouge area school.
He is taking quite seriously a resolution passed by the state legislature in 2004 that urged statewide elected officials and legislators to get a firsthand knowledge of public schools by voluntarily substitute teaching at least three full school days a year.
Spending the day filling in as a substitute teacher is something Kennedy said he has tried to do several times a year for the past nine years. He also plans to branch out in the coming year to parts of the state outside the Baton Rouge area.
“I enjoy it,” Kennedy reportedly said this week. “It also reminds me of what our schools are really like today. Many of the people who make policy for elementary and secondary education think our schools are still like the ones that Wally and Beaver went to, and they’re not…you will learn more in one day than in a thousand listening to testimony.”
He also said he learned that a teacher needs to be an educator, a social worker, a psychologist, a nurse, a guidance counselor and, too often, a parental substitute.
I think that every state legislator should follow Kennedy’s lead. They are making decisions that affect schools. When the time comes to vote on a law that affects the state’s education system, they will have a real picture of what really goes on in the classroom, perhaps leading to the creation of more realistic laws.
Also, many schools are in desperate need of substitute teachers, and elected officials could help alleviate some of this need filling in every once in a while.
Even if the visit to a school in an elected official’s district isn’t for the purpose of subbing, state legislators and other elected officials should visit schools and maybe even teach a short civic lesson, just to give the students a real-life picture of how our state government works.
Think of how much more memorable a lesson on the state’s election system would be given by our Secretary of State Tom Schedler, or even a lesson on how a bill becomes a law by an actual Louisiana legislator?
With so many controversial and swiftly-made decisions on the state’s education system during last year’s legislative session, it is only right that our lawmakers do their best to understand the system they are trying to improve with new laws. After all, education is a universal issue and affects all citizens, whether you have children or grandchildren enrolled in school, or just want the best for the future of our country. Educating our youth should be a priority for everyone.
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