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Voices: Hollywood film 'cliched portrayal of big labor'

Thirty-year Colorado Education Association member and former teacher Jeanne Beyer isn’t as bothered as she thought she’d be by “Won’t Back Down,” but says the film is not realistic.

I thought I would detest Won’t Back Down, but it was not as awful as I anticipated.

Once I got past the clichéd portrayal of “big labor,” knowing that our Colorado Education Association members do put their students first and are nothing like the over-dramatized TAP union, I watched with interest for what the movie was trying to prove.

In Colorado, real-life public school teachers and support staff work with parents to put students at the center: the center of our classrooms and schools, the center of education reforms, and the center of attention in every conversation about public education.

Our members teach and work in schools, not on movie sets. We know that fictionalized accounts that pit parents against school employees make for an interesting storyline and generate millions for moviemakers. But “parent trigger” laws distract from the real issue: providing the best public education for every student.

True, parents and school employees don’t want their schools labeled “FAILURE,” as Adams Elementary was tagged in the film. Turning around a school is a serious process. Signing a petition, however, is not a meaningful solution to engaging educators and parents in a partnership to identify solutions well before a struggling school is said to be in “turnaround” status.

Instant answers cannot substitute for smart solutions and sustainable investments in public schools. We must promote policies that encourage and increase parents’ direct involvement in their children’s learning and achievement by inviting them to help develop and share decisions about school improvements.

We cannot afford to risk our students’ future by using a short-sighted process that gives the power for change to only one constituency group. This may be what happened in Adams Elementary, but it’s not what happens in Colorado. We believe in embracing collaboration, not triggering confrontation over our schools.

We all must share in the responsibility for our students’ success. Teachers and education support professionals must teach and motivate every student. Parents and families must instill values of respect, responsibility and love for learning. Students must come to school ready to learn. Elected officials must give our schools the resources they need to provide a state-of-the-art education for every student.

Only then will we be working collectively to provide the best education for every student.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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