Last week, Mitt Romney said he'd cut back on jobs for teachers, firefighters, and police officers. That's a plan that Massachusetts is all too familiar with. So as we kicked off the first day of our Romney economics bus tour, Massachusetts teachers headed across the state line to Exeter, New Hampshire, to make it clear what Romney economics would mean for American students, teachers, and middle-class families.
Jen, a fifth-grade humanities teacher in Franklin, Massachusetts, says the four years Romney was in office as governor were difficult for all public workers. "I'm a teacher, and my husband is in law enforcement, and both of us were in fear of getting pink slipped and losing our jobs. During the four years Romney was governor, there were no raises for either of us. At the same time, gas prices were going up, the housing market bottomed out. Being a middle-income family was extremely hard with no extra income coming in."
She also watched as the budget cuts adversely affected the students she was teaching. One of the thousands of fees Romney enacted as governor was a charge for school busing, which had always been provided free. Some of her students' families had to pay hundreds of dollars to bus their kids safely to school. Teachers lost jobs, class sizes increased, and students lost programs like language classes and gym.
As a parent, Jen saw the cuts hurting her own children. Because of Romney's budget, students at her children's school went from starting Spanish classes in first grade to starting in fifth grade—and then not starting them at all. Physical education classes were reduced to just once a week, and the designated art classroom became a mobile cart.
Inge, a retired foreign language teacher and former president of her local teachers' union, said that her Massachusetts school was forced to cut back on course offerings because of Romney's "huge" cuts. "We used to offer five or six foreign languages," she notes. But because of Romney's budget cuts, "we lost programs—and not only in foreign languages. Massachusetts children were just not getting the rich education they need to succeed in today's society."
That hurts students, their families, and their teachers, says Francesca, a retired teacher. "Our teachers need to feel revved up, that sense of excitement for their job. And how can they do that when they don't feel like they're valued?" That's why she, an independent New Hampshire voter, is not only planning to vote for President Obama but is also actively campaigning for him.
These educators agree: Teachers matter. Investing in education matters. And only one candidate understands that.
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