In 2000, I taught in England for a month and formed a sister-school relationship with Cramlington Learning Village. Over 15 years, I supervised exchange visits involving approximately 100 students. Previously, I had interned in London in 1982 as a study-abroad student.
In England, I met dedicated, qualified teachers, who are focused on their careers--on seeking advancement and often moving schools and districts to do so. Their schools lose and hire teachers at the end of each nine week teaching period and over the summer. Teaching in England greatly differs from teaching in Bettendorf; however, the most notable difference is my fellow teachers' loyalty to their district, children, and community. I have proudly taught for my district for 32 years. Because the contract allows clarity and stability for the districts and teachers alike, we Iowa teachers can focus on students and subject matter, not on job competition or job security, although I did "survive" the declining enrollment during the Farm Crisis in the 1980's.
I was raised in a poor family whose self-employed dad drove a bread truck and whose mother was a housewife. My parents fostered a respect for education. For my first two years of college, I lived at home and worked thirty hours a week to finance my college education, which I completed at Central College, due to generous academic scholarships and loans.
Why do I tell you this? Because as an English teacher, I know that education is the ticket to individual success and independence. Education is the fundamental key to healthy communities. With a strong English foundation, my students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to be successful in work or college and in life.
As a college student, I knew that teaching was a life-style choice. While raising our three daughters, more of my check went to childcare than to our family budget, but at least I was providing family insurance, building my seniority, and banking my sick days to someday have the retirement plan my dad never had. Yet, changing Code 20 may strip or significantly change insurance, seniority, accrued sick leave, pay, and retirement payout.
Iowa teachers throughout the state are no different. Regardless of their personal stories, they went into teaching for the children and have "played by the rules" of low pay and decent benefits. For my entire career, they have also been under attack by the media, the public, and elected officials for no just cause. As I have traveled throughout the country, few people can comprehend the excellent quality of Iowa public education, the greatest equalizer in a developed society.
Now, the representatives of my home state are voting on Code 20 to strip us of our voice and ability to maintain a stable work environment. I have paid into IPERS and toward my health insurance. I have earned a master’s degree and 75 credits and have been paid for Masters +45. I have dedicated over three decades of my life to a profession and state that I love. Yet, I cannot strike nor serve on my local school board. My voice has been through Code 20, designed "to promote harmonious and cooperative relationships between government and its employees..." Without Code 20, Iowa will struggle to attract and to maintain quality teachers.
Teaching is a calling, not a job or career; therefore, school districts are not a businesses, and children are certainly not "widgets." Chapter 20 has successfully served Iowa for 42 years and should remain perfectly intact.