What’s My Story?

image Wikipedia

image Wikipedia

I was shocked when I read her email.  I had never received any type of correspondence like it from any politician, ever!  Wendy Davis, who is running for Texas State Governor next year, asked me what my story was.  She asked, “What challenges do you and your family face?  What issues should be addressed to strengthen our families?”  For the last five years her running opponent, Greg Abbott, the Texas State Attorney General since 2002, has been anything but cordial, sympathetic, or hopeful toward me; just cold and impersonal.  If there are those who have not heard of Greg Abbott, then my point is made.

Like Wendy Davis, some human beings would take a few minutes to ask questions like, What’s going on with these issues?  How did things get to this point?  What can we do to improve things?  Wow.  Imagine that, a politician who wants to know and listen to the nuts-and-bolts of a situation and its causes, its factors from the actual people affected!  What an invitation!  What an opportunity!

This is what I told her…
(paragraph break)

Wendy, I am a two-years unemployed certified 4-8 General Ed, Special Ed (pending) teacher, father of a 2nd year college daughter, and 12-year old son who live over 300-miles away and I briefly see maybe twice a year.  In the summer of 2012 my charter school where I taught – whose student body was 82% Special Needs and a third were wards of the state from horrific homes and circumstances – lost four of its six major funding grants.  Education cuts were not only happening nationwide, but just as much statewide.  As a result, our school resources were severely stretched or eliminated.  These cuts included much-needed hiring of additional qualified staff, aides, and most importantly certified teachers for the increased numbers of Special Ed students coming in from other nearby closing schools AND the result of marketing and attracting more Special Ed students necessary to keep our two meager remaining grants for 2013.  The federal and state cuts also meant no annual 2% – 3% pay raises for any current teachers and staff; I was grossing $31,380 per year (or $2,080 a month, or barely $13/hour after automatic child support garnishments) for 60-70 hours minimum per week of work.  Need I get into net earnings minus healthcare pay-deductions and cost of living expenses?  The math is depressing.

One assessment some schools and districts use to monitor their teacher’s development and well-being, especially those on campuses teaching behavioral-emotional Special Needs students and wards-of-the-state, is a stress-anxiety assessment.  At the end of the school year, I scored in the upper 10% at risk; almost “Highly at Risk” for accelerated health deterioration.

My At Risk for health deterioration was compounded monthly by financial and legal pressures from the Texas Child Support Services and the state Attorney General’s Office.  During my annual checkup at the doctor’s office, he told me flat-out I need to find a different job; a job where I at least had the time (somewhere in the 24-hours) to exercise and relieve the stress.  This was my response to him:

If I quit my job doctor, I only compound my problems.  If I fall behind even two months unemployed, the Texas Attorney General’s Office report those failures immediately to all credit bureaus.  Sometimes it is less than two months.  Most all potential employers today use an extensive background check – especially for teachers – as well as credit checks which are used for financial decisions and interest rates, let alone everything else creditors, lenders, businesses, etc, etc. families, parents, and me, the non-custodial parent, struggle with and fight to stay afloat month-to-month.  I don’t know Doc what the answer is.  This was his reply:  “As long as you understand the health consequences if SOMETHING doesn’t give.”

For the 2011-2012 school year I taught 5th – 8th Social Studies, 5th – 8th Enhanced Learning Lab (elective), 9th – 12th Career Tech (elective), and assistant coach athletics for after-school activities.  In late summer my charter school informed me that for the coming 2012-2013 school year, I would have to teach 4th – 8th grade Science and Social Studies of which all periods would have 2 or 3 grade levels of the subject in the same classroom.  For you readers who are not teachers or familiar with Texas state curriculum and standards, every single grade level in science is a different development module with some crossovers.  In Social Studies, 4th graders cover basic Texas history, 5th graders cover basic American history, 6th graders cover basic World history, 7th graders cover more-advanced Texas history, and 8th graders cover more-advanced American history.  The only crossover I would be afforded to ease the 35%-40% workload increase would’ve been 4th and 7th, and 6th – 8th.  And as a reminder, almost half of each class are Special Needs wards-of-the-state students.  Myself and other teachers had no aids because there was no money to pay for them, and that would be the case again for the upcoming bigger classes for the upcoming year.

Wendy-DavisAs most people are aware, our public education systems have gone through needed reform.  Some of it has been successful and improved.  However, there is obviously much more work to be done and equalities protected!  More importantly, radical state and federal funding cuts only exacerbate the problems and worse put at great risk our country’s future leaders and skilled educated collaborating future government officials and citizens.  Public education is not and never has been “secular brainwashing or compromise.”  Those speculations are left to individual homes and parents, not public schools.  Public education is and has been primarily for those children and adolescents who come from not-so-advantaged homes, even severely impoverished, to have a decent chance of becoming a productive future citizen and not an expensive public liability in prisons, mental institutions, or rehab clinics; all of which require MORE taxpayer dollars in the long run.  Yes, a headache  can be cured by decapitation (i.e. conservative-pushed cuts), but is it productive change?  Is it “economic/fiscal responsibility” on all levels?  No.
(paragraph break)

I resigned in August 2012.  Today, I am still unemployed as a certified General and Special Ed teacher.  I spend an average of 12-18 hours a day seeking and completing long extensive applications for teaching positions in districts that haven’t been so severely hit by funding cuts.  Meanwhile, each month I receive a cold, unconcerned collection statement from the Attorney General’s Office showing in bold type my higher rising balance plus interest.  Like a home mortgage or auto loan, this monthly defaulting is reported to all credit bureaus.  Should my arrears reach $10,000 my case will go into the Enforcement Stage and a warrant for my arrest will be issued.  DeAnna Shields, a Killeen, Texas web-radio talk show host, student of mental health studies, parent, and U.S. Army Widow volunteer, writes a telling article about Texas Child Support laws from Greg Abbott’s office on CNN’s iReport.  Read it here.

Wendy Davis, clearly I am and have felt the detrimental effects of a plunging credit score and unemployment.  I wonder how jail time would affect my job search.  Thank you so much for asking about my story Wendy!  A little digging, a little personal human interaction, a little effort to understand the long-term effect of lawmaking goes a very long way.  I really hope next year I will be addressing you as Governor Davis!

Signed,
Unemployed Texas Special-Ed Teacher

(paragraph break)

Post-script — “Greg Abbott leads Wendy Davis by single digits” — Politico, 10/2/2013.  If you are interested, here is her campaign website:  http://www.wendydavistexas.com/

(paragraph break)
Creative Commons License
This work by Professor Taboo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://professortaboo.wordpress.com.

25 thoughts on “What’s My Story?

  1. D — what a f#cked-up mess, and I’m so sorry to read what you’ve been going through. While reading, my heart sank deeper and deeper as my gut rose to meet it. It is a travesty what’s happening around this country, and I’ve read horror stories like yours on political blogs that I’m active in. I have my own horror story, as I lost a successful business due to very poor decisions made by people in ‘leadership’ positions in the state I’m currently living in. And yes, my health was affected big-time. Although it’s growing back, I lost over half of my long, thick hair, no thanks to those asshats running the show. I looked like a cancer patient. I’ve experienced other health issues as well. And yes, I’m unemployed, and have been for over 2 years because no one wants to higher someone who’s been a business owner because they are considered by employers as ‘unmanageable’. That’s what my job counselors have told me. Oh, there’s so much more to my own story.

    I’ve been quite proactive in spreading awareness, sharing reports about the corruption and mishandling of funds, with the state of Texas being at the top of the list. When I read that the Republican party was trying to forbid teachers from teaching critical thinking skills, that only fueled the flames of my activism.

    I quote from the Washington Post dated 7-9-12 what the Texas Republican party wrote in its 2012 platform as part of the section on education: “We oppose the teaching of “higher order thinking skills” because they believe ” the purpose is to challenge a student’s “fixed beliefs” and undermine “parental authority.” The article goes on to show that they oppose, among other things, early childhood education, sex education, and multicultural education, but support “school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded.”

    Perry and his ilk have turned a once thriving state into a 3rd world country. The same thing has happened in the Reddest state of Mississippi, and other Red states, too. I am deeply sadden that you have been affected physically, emotionally, and psychologically by these idiots who have no empathy for its citizens; citizens who PAY their salaries.

    I have more to say about this but I’m so pissed right now, I need to step back for a bit.

    Like

    • Victoria,

      Thank you for your pissy-ness. LOL
      My intention was/is not to seek whoa-is-me, misery-loves-company type reactions. I thought about disabling the Comment section, but decided otherwise. Wendy Davis asked so I was brutally honest what it is like in the trenches, in the rough-parts of society in Texas that many “Red” officials and “upper groups” seem to be out of touch with.

      “Walk ten miles in their shoes, THEN you’ll have a glimpse of what the real nature of middle, lower class life is about.”

      Your Washington Post article is spot-on with the predominant trend in Wild West Texas. And funny you mention Mississippi as well, as I spent almost 8-years living there after college and semi-pro soccer. What is obvious to me today in BOTH states is the seriously growing socio-economic gap between the upper 10% (hell, lets just be truthful…) upper 20% and the remaining 80%! The contrasts are mind-blowing Victoria; literally homes, subdivisions with large gated, fenced-in (out?) suburbs versus “inner-city” — or as in the case of my hometown and neighborhood, south or southeast Dallas versus Plano, Frisco, Allen, McKinney, and it goes on and on…and ironically further and further, literally in distance and “walls”. I GUARANTEE YOU that is a direct and indirect result of failing education, not failing public education, but failing collaboration. And as you also precisely mentioned: the result of “emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded” at the expense of disadvantaged families; who, by the way, typically as adults end up being pushed into the “systems” that conservative society wants to defund, cut, punish, and move away from. I’ve watched many of my own classmates (from Oak Cliff, Dallas) fall into fight-or-flight modes of survival, several who are now in EXPENSIVE overcrowded taxpayer prisons. No, the socio-economic problems are NOT a lack of religious values or the deterioration of them. They are the results of inequalities disguised as “religious-based” solutions or principles AND the lack of decent “free” or meager taxpaid public education for the thousands upon thousands of families that cannot afford expensive private education, let alone high-quality mega-expensive (or debt-inducing) college degrees. *takes deep gasping breath from all that*

      LOL…anyway, I’m sure there will be a few ‘passionate’ comments made here. That’s my hope and for the upcoming governor’s race in 2014…what is needed, huh?

      Like

      • You said:

        “No, the socio-economic problems are NOT a lack of religious values or the deterioration of them. They are the results of inequalities disguised as “religious-based” solutions or principles AND the lack of decent “free” or meager taxpaid public education.”

        Bingo!

        Please know that your post did NOT come across as you trying to seek a whoa-is-me, misery-loves-company type reactions. But it needs to be told — your story. Let me share with you what Margaret Wheatly said in her article “Relying on Human Goodness”

        ————

        “Oppression never occurs between equals. Tyranny always arises from the belief that some people are more human than others.

        There is no other way to justify inhumane treatment, except to assume that the pain inflicted on the oppressed is not the same as ours. I saw this clearly in South Africa, after apartheid and during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.

        In those hearings, white South Africans listened to black mothers grieving the loss of their children to violence, to wives weeping for their tortured husbands, to black maids crying for the children they left behind when they went to work for white families.

        As the grief of these women and men became public, many white South Africans, for the first time, saw black South Africans as equally human. In the years of apartheid, they had justified their treatment of blacks by assuming that the suffering of blacks was not equal to theirs. They had assumed they were not fully human.”

        —————

        Yeah, that’s what’s happening across our nation, with the Haves and the Have-nots. The 20% have assumed that the 80% are not fully human.

        Oh, and they have to keep those ‘for profit’ prisons filled to 90% capacity, or else their investors and CEO’s will not get their massive bonus’. =/

        Like

  2. In a lecture by behavioral neuroscientist, Michael Persinger, titled “No More Secrets”, he shares that throughout history, when a population became ‘too educated’, where over 50% of it’s population were educated, they, the citizens, would rebel against the authorities trying to unethically control the masses. I see this happening in the U.S. — unethical, and inhumane methodology. It’s very apparent in the Red states. Keep ’em dumb and they won’t rebel and revolt.

    Well, their days are number because people are tired of this shit. I started supporting Wendy Davis well before her filibuster a few months ago, and I’m not even from Texas. I’m excited to read that she ask you about your story. D — I hope it makes a difference. I really do. I’ve lost faith in most political leaders because so many become affected by power and abuse it. I quote Dr. Ian Robertson, from his book “How Power Affects Your Brain”:

    ——

    “Democracy, the separation of judicial powers and the free press all evolved for essentially one purpose – to reduce the chance of leaders becoming power addicts. Power changes the brain triggering increased testosterone in both men and women. Testosterone and one of its by-products called 3-androstanediol, are addictive, largely because they increase dopamine in a part of the brain’s reward system called the nucleus accumbens.

    Cocaine has its effects through this system also, and by hijacking our brain’s reward system, it can give short-term extreme pleasure but leads to long-term addiction, with all that that entails. Unfettered power has almost identical effects.

    But too much power – and hence too much dopamine – can disrupt normal cognition and emotion, leading to gross errors of judgment and imperviousness to risk, not to mention huge egocentricity and lack of empathy for others.”

    ———

    Go Wendy Davis. Texas needs you!

    Professor, thank you for this post, and for sharing so personally. People need to see the ‘personal’ side of this travesty caused by egocentric politicians who’ve clearly shown that they’ve made gross errors of judgement, taken risks at the cost of the citizens, and have most certainly shown a lack of empathy for others.

    *rant over* almost…

    Like

  3. Your letter was definitely comprehensive and well thought out, to be sure. You address so many things that seem to be issues across the board lately. I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area where our public schools were as strong both academically and in the extracurriculars (if not more so) than our private school counterparts (I should know, my first 2 years of high school were spent in private school). I’m also well aware that my situation was not the norm, but more a product of growing up in an affluent community.

    It seems to me that between politics and parenting (and who we’ve managed to pin the “hero” tag on), there has been an alarming lack of priority placed on the importance of a good, solid education for future generations. We cut and slash in all the wrong places, giving no thought to how this will impact our nation in just a few years. We pay a ton for celebrities who don’t really do much, but those who can truly shape, mold and develop our youth into functional, intelligent, decent human beings…we can’t be bothered with.

    Florida sees a lot of this, too, unfortunately. Although I don’t have children at this time, I believe in the importance of investing in them…and those who educate them. What I’ve heard from others, though, is that they’re older. Their children (if they’ve had any) are grown (and often living in other states), so they don’t see why education should be of any import to them. Short sighted to say the least. I’m not even sure they’ve correlated the fact that Medicare cuts are happening thanks to their lack of concern with “the future” of this country who are now in office.

    There’s so much selfishness and blame to go around, but very few willing to do anything to fix it. If this woman truly cares and isn’t simply trolling for a vote, I hope she not only wins this election, but puts her actions where her mouth is. 🙂

    Like

    • Kitt,

      Thank you so much for your comment/feedback! I truly appreciate it. 🙂

      Your affluent upbringing is perfectly fine IF, and I must emphasize if, it also goes hand-in-hand with all sectors of a truly democratic society/nation. In other words, at the VERY LEAST it is certainly good for the soul to give, to serve, to aid those who are less fortunate (e.g. the fish or fishing parable) and learning how to be a serving active citizen, but it just so happens too that it is VERY good for business, revenue, and profits too! Directly or indirectly, sooner or later, all sectors of society bear the brunt of inequalities and injustice! In stark contrast to what recent leaders such as Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher preached that ‘everyone should pay the same tax-rate despite wealth or inheritance’, were both sadly ignorant of fair long-term economics. And those two popular leaders (R.I.P.) could not have been more “popular” yet so wrong!

      Your analogy on tagging celebrity heroes versus those who impact children daily in classrooms (if said parents choose NOT to “home-school” their own ideologies) then if they can’t afford to home-school them, will send them to a private school/church to be properly indoctrinated. But for those less fortunate who don’t have the resources or time to do that, go to public systems…of which large conservative numbers including home-schooling slash private-schooling proponents, as you stated, DO NOT care to be bothered with or pay those taxes for schools THEY do not care to utilize, then cut, defund, and verbally trash…until that day/night those felons, or psych-patients, or drug-abusers end up on their doorstep, or worse, trespassing inside their home.

      Why does it have to get to that point!!!!!!!!!!????????

      Isolation, or isolated groups detached from the whole…will, like a castle under siege and cut-off from the rest of the world, eventually succumb to the greater numbers. So why not deal with them, all diverse types, every single day!!!!!????

      *steps down off his cheaply made low-class Oak Cliff soap box!* 😉

      Like

      • Oh, don’t misunderstand. The only affluence I knew in my life happened while I was in the Philippines for a few short years in my youth. And the affluence had more to do with being in a third world country and my father being a GI than it did any real wealth. There, I went to private school with children from all ends of the spectrum. In fact, because of my natural aptitude for reading and English, I was often asked to assist the teacher with my more remedial peers.

        During the time I mentioned in my prior post, I was only in that school district because the hospital she worked at had affordable housing available to employees. I will say that the area I lived in, despite all the money & fancy cars, was not all about elitism or cliquish behavior, but had a rather accepting, all inclusive attitude toward everyone that I hadn’t experienced much before or after. It was made even more special because I got the distinct impression that these behaviors were inherited more from the educators than the parents. Most of the parents were hung up on wealth and status.

        Just goes to show the power teachers can have. In fact, most of the kids I ended my high school career with are smart, productive members of society with a surprising amount of teachers and attorneys.

        Like

        • Kitt, is there ANY WAY we can clone you, then have all of you good-peoples move to Texas, vote for Wendy Davis and reverse the ADverse affects and consequences of education-privatization-indoctrination that Texas has been trending toward since David Koresh, Bill Clements and George W. Bush!? LOL 😉

          Like

        • Lucky lucky Music Man! Let me see if I can Texas-Top-That…

          Did you know that most of our Texas high school football coaches turn down BCF, CFL, EFL, and some NFL jobs because they don’t compare to the multi-billion dollar facilities, stadiums, and hefty wages-stipends they get in Texas high school football!!!??

          HAH! Top THAT you swampy Florida-gator!
          *in his best deluded proud red-neck Texan Yee-haw voice! spits in the can* lol 😉

          Like

        • I’m not a Gator girl! That is in Illinois. 😉 DuPage county, to be specific. And actually, many of the educators at my former high school were like that. Not just in the music department. 🙂 He actually became a close friend of the family.

          Like

  4. I feel empathy for what you’ve been going through. I sincerely feel you have endured a series of unfortunate events. I know what it’s like to be homeless, jobless, carless, penniless, friend-less, and family-less, all at the same time. I made choices I did not want to take, but I knew I literally needed to make in order to survive-for it is no fun sleeping under pine trees…actually, there is no sleeping under pine trees, just lots of mosquitoes. That’s my experience, anyway.

    There came a time when I had to say, “What are you going to do about it?” and then I started walking-with stoicism-one foot in front of the other until I had a plan. Then I kept walking one foot in front of the other as I executed each part of my plan. I have met some goals and there are goals which I am reaching. I’ll write an update soon : )

    So Professor Taboo, my question for you is: What are you going to do about it? Real soon I want to hear a real positive update. That’s an order, sir ; )

    Like

    • Well Heather, I realized after I had already clicked the Publish button, that I hadn’t mentioned my personal position DOES have its benefits: I’ve seen people, know people whose situations are much worse than mine. With empathy for them and gratitude for mine, I count my fortunes often! I’ve only had 4 of your 6 misfortunes. I have yet to live under the pines with lots of mosquitos or under an interstate highway bridge in a card-board box as my sister has! I’ve always had friends and family. *raises arms to the stars and moon howling!* 😉

      I do already have a positive update! I’ll share it for sure soon. Thank you kindly for your encouragement!

      Like

  5. Fantastic post. What I don’t find fantastic and actually depressing on both a global and rather personal level is how an intelligent, educated, industrious, ingenious and spirited man like you can be unemployed. It defies belief on a totally Machiavellian scale and makes me question my own choices. But the alternative is to stop giving a f*ck, and I don’t think I am capable of that.

    So to both of us, I will say keep doing exactly what it is we need to do in order to get us to where we need to go. The journey might be tiring, and frustrating, and sometime down right soul destroying, but WE WILL get there my friend. Chin up.

    Applause and respect from London,
    Atreyu

    Like

    • Atreyu,

      Thank you for your encouragement and comment! Love it when you speak. 🙂

      I’ve been working off-and-on jobs that pay $8 – $10 per hour CASH simply to barely get by and under the oppressive radar of the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support. However, that only lasts 3-months because business owners can only pay out of their “Cash Accounts” up to $2,000…then they must report all expenditures (with receipts) to the state & federal governments. Hence, I then have to either go on the payroll — all deductions applied plus child support — and then have a take-home pay of just less than minimum wage or much less depending on the discretion of said Attorney General’s Office.

      But the decent-to-good paying full-time positions (which naturally involve greater responsibility, like teaching 15-35 students!) require extensive background checks, CREDIT CHECKS, and experienced teachers of 4-15 years with quality performance reviews AND high student testing scores. Though I have good experience in the psych-A&D field (i.e. semi-suitable for Special Ed), I have only 1-years experience teaching. See the issues?

      Good news though. I will be starting 3 different jobs Nov. 4th – 11th: Substitute teaching in two different school districts, as well as private tutoring with Sylvan Learning Center weeknights and weekends….earning approximately $1,800 per month to get by on. lol 😉

      Like

    • Another note Atreyu to this “semi” good news of employment:

      I am moving back up to the DFW area for these 3 new jobs and in order to “get by” I will be living (temporarily?) in our family’s 31-foot RV, in an RV park month-to-month. Just this morning the RV Park — of which I have lived extendedly (plus 6-months) twice before — called to inform me that my “move” has been approved conditionally due to my very poor Credit Score/Rating. Not only will I have to pay a ‘higher rate’ each month, but it must also be a direct debit (electronic withdrawal straight out of my checking acct) on the 1st of each month. I never had to arrange it that way prior; my rent-history with them has been utterly spotless.

      This new “conditionally approved” setup is a direct result of the Texas Attorney General’s Office and management of my child support case. 😦

      Like

      • Well, the latter sucks, but congratulations on your new jobs! Treat them as stepping stones to something more positive and constructive. Perhaps all this portends the end of your struggles and a window into better prospects, both personal and professional. Hold on to that and THRIVE.

        Like

    • Thank you Jessica! As noted in my comment replies to others here, beginning weeks of Nov. 4-11 I’ll be starting 2-3 jobs, perhaps a 4th to cover unpaid holidays. LOL

      As the cliche goes…”it could be worse,” huh?

      Like

  6. Wow. That is incredible that she reached out to you. As someone who used to live in Texas and didn’t have many favorable experiences, it really warms my heart that you got such a valuable communication from someone who maybe will make change….I’m also terribly sorry for all you’ve gone through. I hope you find a job soon…..

    Like

    • Thank you Lindsey for your encouraging comment and for stopping by! I hope you find time to come back.

      As mentioned in one or two comment replies here, I have landed 2-3 “part-time” jobs; beginning week of Nov. 11th. Must find another job during the holidays since none of the first 2-3 jobs pay during those times. As I work those substituting jobs & the tutoring job, a full-time position will open up; hopefully right after the Xmas break or by the new 2014-15 school year.

      Thanks again for your visit! I’ll jump over to your blog & return the favor! 🙂

      Like

  7. Pingback: Communication | Professor Taboo

  8. Pingback: Just Call Me A Pimpstress….Come Join The Party! | theinnerwildkat

Go Ahead, Start the Discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s