At last month’s Tennessee Education Association Representative Assembly, TEA President Velma Lois Jones scolded members and parents for failing to get behind the union’s proposal for a state income tax. Jones listed the media, politicians and parents as the “usual suspects who talk much but do little.” Of parents, Jones said they all “claim to want an excellent education for their children, but most of whom would get out and campaign against any kind of tax increase to pay for it.”
TEA is also distributing a declaration that calls for a 5 percent pay increase for beginning teachers, a 5 percent increase in retirement benefits, and automatic annual cost-of-living salary increases. Jones noted that only about half of TEA members had signed. “This raises some very disturbing questions for me,” said Jones. “Are that many of us so weak and fearful that we can’t even declare our support for public education with our signature? Are that many so distrustful of their own organization? Are we, as leaders, unable or unwilling to communicate with that many of our own members?”
Jones went on: “A thoughtful examination of the facts will bring you to only one conclusion: an income tax. Yes I said it… income tax, income tax, income tax. Why do we let colleagues stay in denial? Why do we let our own members act like we’ve somehow betrayed them by being outspoken in favor of an income tax? Why would our members want us to be hypocrites? Why would they want us to pander to the lowest common denominator? Are we just another mongrel in the dog-eat-dog, I-got-mine-now-you-get-yours world? Is public education nothing more to us than a meal ticket?”
Hitting her stride, Jones finished with a burst: “How can you expect me, as your leader and spokesperson, to go up there and beat up some politicians, when you don’t even know who your legislators are? Or when you aren’t even registered to vote? When you won’t even make a phone call or write a postcard supporting TEA’s position on an issue? The answer is: You can’t. Membership isn’t welfare.”
Jones asked TEA members a lot of questions. EIA asks only one: Why are you paying $350-$400 a year for welfare?