We debated for weeks as to who our very first “Person of The Year” would be. We asked community and civic leaders across town who they might suggest for this first ever designation and they offered several great suggestions–any of whom would have been the perfect fit. But while we were trying to narrow it down to just one person, the task became daunting and near endless. The list kept growing longer and longer as they days went on, but there was one common thread among many of them: That the future is in our children.
While yes, it does seem a bit odd to name more than one “Person of The Year,” we will go bold and tip our hats to an entire group of people who sacrifice so much and get so little monetary reward in return.
We decided that our very first “Person of The Year” would be: Texas Public Education Workers
While strides were made in the 86th Texas Legislature to get them better compensation packages, many just did not get close to what they were promised. While some local school boards around the state passed out pay increases as high as 6% to their staff, others did not and left their staff hanging onto 2-3% pay increases. But even still, they have dedicated themselves to our future and to our children. They go to work each and every day giving their best to future generations of children, planting the seeds of knowledge and decency deep in the hearts of our state’s children.
Public-school teachers have endured a bruising year across the country, and that includes many teachers and public education workers right here in South Texas. When they protested in Austin over pay increase packages and pension reform, many (including some powerful state lawmakers) accused them of being “selfish” and “ignorant,” even labeling their efforts to influence lawmakers as being a “thug mentality.” But in the end, their efforts brought forth temporary change and financial relief for some.
Being overlooked and targeted in political wrangling is nothing new for teachers. Parents, politicians and Board Members — we all weigh in on education. Maybe it’s because most of us spend 13 years — kindergarten through 12th grade — in the classroom. School feels nearly as comfortable and familiar as even our own homes. The teacher: an often loved/sometimes despised/hopefully cheerful/occasionally wicked/at best, inspirational dispenser of education. The school years are formative, carried with us forever. We’ve all been there. We know it.
In honor of the vital work that they do and their sacrifices on any given day, we, the editorial board of The South Texas Journal and our sister publication The Southside Light, salute of very first, inaugural Person of The Year: Texas Public Education Workers