Recently, Mitt Romney made a shocking statement. “You don’t credit the bus driver for a kid who made the Honor Roll. He was rebutting the president’s “you didn’t build it” comment, yet his words were revealing in other ways, and display a stunning lack of understanding about how bus drivers and other classified school employees do their jobs.
Mr. Romney would be startled to discover that 30 percent of all public school employees are not teachers, but workers who fulfill other vital educational roles as bus drivers, food service workers, para-educators, secretaries and more. Schools work because these professionals do.
The child who’s hungry is nourished by a caring cook who juggles budgets, nutritional guidelines and underfunded mandates. The school secretary helps make a complicated machine like a modern school operate a bit more smoothly. The para-educator wears many hats and is challenged with a daily onslaught of special needs pupils, non-english speaking students and youngsters with a host of substance abuse and violence issues.
And what about that bus driver who has “nothing to do” with the honor roll student? If Mr. Romney would spend some time with that driver, he might be interested to learn that a smile, a helpful hand up or simply being on time in all weather and road conditions does, in fact, play a role in helping that student toward academic achievement and the honor roll.
If you get a chance, please say “thank you” to one of these unsung professionals, which shouldn’t be hard to do since more than 70 percent of these workers live and pay taxes in the communities they work in. Anyone who really knows how a public school works knows that everyone has a hand in the success of the students there. We all care and work together because we’re all in this together. Mr. Romney, however, just doesn’t get it.