While others may become bored reading about my grandfather, I never tire of writing about him. He drove from Ruston to Galveston, Texas, back in 1945 to retrieve an abandoned and malnourished infant from a hospital there, brought him home and he and his wife set about giving the baby a home filled with love and not much else.
My grandparents were unlearned in terms of formal education but my grandfather tried to teach me dignity, honesty and respect—respect, most of all. Some of those lessons stuck. Once he bought me a candy bar and as we were riding in his pickup moments later, I tossed the wrapper out the window. Suddenly a resounding POW! exploded in my ears as the palm of his hand found the back of my head and I saw Jesus at the end of a long tunnel waving me to the light. My grandfather never said a word. He didn’t have to and to this day, I refuse to throw anything out my truck window and defy any of my passengers to do so.
But there was another lesson he taught me, one that a man named Winston Churchill also espoused. He drilled into my psyche the importance of defending myself and defending the rights others with equal determination. “If you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s for damned sure nobody else will,” he told me at least a thousand times during my childhood and adolescence. Churchill more eloquently said much the same thing on Oct. 29, 1941, in a speech at Harrow School: “Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVEiskNv1hs
That’s why I call Bobby Jindal out on every occasion that I catch him lying through his teeth. Like, for instance his claim that he has reduced the state work force by 30,000 employees during his administration when the Office of Civil Service, in its latest report, puts that actual number far lower—like 13,604 positions abolished but only 8,420 people laid off since Fiscal Year 2008 which actually started six months before he took office. But don’t take my word for it; see for yourself: MAY 2015 LAYOFF REPORT
The words of both my grandfather and Churchill are lessons we can apply in our efforts to confront the efforts of Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature in their efforts to weaken state employees and teachers.
Remember a few years ago when bills were introduced to abolish civil service? Those bills actually provided the impetus to start LouisianaVoice. Already making preparations to retire from my own civil service job with the Office of Risk Management, I could not stand idly by and watch my fellow employees stripped of their job protection, such as it was. (Of course, when LouisianaVoice was born, it hastened my retirement as Jindal did not—and does not—take kindly to criticism of any form or from anyone.)
I could understand and accept the prohibition against civil service employees’ participation in political campaigns. That ban extended to campaigning, contributing to campaigns and even to signs and bumper stickers. But it was okay. Civil Service was established by Gov. Jimmie Davis for the specific purpose of protecting employees from political patronage and their firing for no cause other than supporting the wrong candidate.
But to place that restriction while at the same time abolishing their job protection? Not for one nano-second, not as long as I owned a computer and a keyboard. Even though it ultimately precipitated my retirement a year or so sooner than I had anticipated, my grandfather’s admonitions to stand up for myself and others was stronger than my concerns for job security.
The efforts to do away with civil service failed but now Jindal and his lackeys in the House and Senate are doing their dead level best to follow the example of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/05/04/3654397/scott-walker-says-crush-whats-left-american-unions-elected-president/ and to meekly obey the demands of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in his letter to legislators: https://www.atr.org/louisiana-labor-committee-passes-paycheck-protection-bill
That letter calls on legislators to support House Bill 418 by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) and Senate Bill 204 by Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie), both of which call for the cessation of the withholding of union dues for teachers by the state.
Both bills are blatant attempts to weaken teachers unions, namely the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators. The smokescreen thrown up by proponents of the bills is that it is burdensome for the state to process the dues withholding.
That’s simply a lie and a disingenuous one at that. The transactions are done by computer and once set up, never need human input. It’s certainly no more difficult than withholding state employee premiums paid to the Office of Group Benefits or to any one of dozens of premiums withheld for life, dental and disability insurance companies. You’d think these guys would at least give the appearance of trying to be a little more believable.
A story by Education Week explains the predicament faced by teachers in a single headline: “Education is political; can teachers afford not to be?” http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2015/05/01/education-is-political-can-teachers-afford-not.html
The story points out that teachers often refrain from viewing themselves as political even though curriculum, standards, testing and funding are all political.
“If teachers and parents don’t get more political, our public schools will continue to be assaulted by the privatizers, profiteers, pseudo-reformers, voucherizers and other enemies of public education,” one reader wrote in a comment about the story.
Don’t believe that? Let’s review. It was in March of 2012 when teachers demonstrated at the State Capitol over Bobby Jindal’s so-called “education reforms” and when one teacher attempted to testify before the House Education Committee, then-Rep. Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette) attempted to push through a requirement that in addition to the customary practice of witnesses providing their names, where they were from and whom they represent, they also be required to say if they were appearing before the committee in a “professional capacity or if they were on annual or sick leave.”
A furious John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) said he had never in his House tenure seen such a rule imposed on witnesses. “This house (the Capitol) belongs to the people,” added Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge), “and now we’re going to put them in a compromising position? This is an atrocity!” http://louisianavoice.com/2012/03/page/5/
If teachers still are not convinced that they should unite as one and flex a little muscle, perhaps they should remember Jindal’s infamous speech before the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry in January of 2012 at which he introduced his education reform package. During that speech, he alluded to paying teachers simply by virtue of their ability to breathe. http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?tmp=detail&md=newsroom&articleID=3197
Subsequent to that endearing line, several teachers stopped breathing when they sacrificed their lives defending school children from berserk gunmen but Jindal never once acknowledged those acts of heroism. Not once, though he did pose with his family for his Christmas card last year—with everyone, including children, dressed in camouflage. Touching.
If additional proof is needed of the severity of the situation for educators, in North Carolina, teachers have begun demonstrating their commitment to public schools by wearing red clothing as a symbol of support for their vocation.
So, what’s wrong with that, you ask? Didn’t we in recent years start a tradition of wearing red on Fridays as a salute to our armed forces?
Yes, but with teachers apparently it’s different and offensive enough that Senate Bill 480 was introduced in the Tar Heel State legislature that would make such a brazen act a Class 1 misdemeanor because supporting public education is considered a political view, subjecting teachers participating in such anarchy to dismissal.
Never mind that the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said that the “threat of dismissal is nonetheless a potent means of inhibiting speech” and a violation of First Amendment rights.
So, bottom line, corporations, with their billions in political dark money, are classified as individuals and free to purchase elections and politicians at will but teachers, with an average salary of $40,065, are political activists to be feared and controlled—muzzled, as it were.
But to all teachers who read this: you vote, your family votes, your friends vote and you would be wise to watch to see how your legislators vote on issues that affect you. The election is this October. We will be choosing a governor and 144 legislators.
I harken back to my grandfather’s sage advice: “If you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s for damned sure nobody else will.”