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Letters: Howard County teachers union rule to limit work a mistake; more from readers | READER COMMENTARY

Teachers union rule to limit work a mistake

The Howard County Education Association recently told teachers that they should not work at all outside of their contractually obligated work times (“Without vaccinations, teachers vote to work-to-rule,” Feb. 25).

This is the wrong call for our students at a time when they need us most.

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This misguided resolution states that educators cannot work before and after school, on weekends or on holidays. This includes grading, mentoring, student support, answering parents’ and students’ emails after those hours, and sponsoring student teams, clubs and organizations. At elementary schools, this even means teachers will not supervise students during lunch or recess.

As a Howard County Public School System teacher, a large portion of the time that I and other committed teachers work is outside of “contract hours.” But I am a professional. I don’t have hours. I have a profession, and my career is educating children.

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While I support teachers’ individual rights to agree with the resolution, I find the union’s stand morally repugnant. To me, the union’s decision is spiteful and only harms students.

In Maryland, educators are not allowed to strike. The work-to-rule resolution is HCEA’s poorly thought-out alternative. Instead of addressing concerns HCEA has with the school system, the union has chosen a course of action through which the students are facing the brunt of the consequences.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many students are struggling with learning loss and limited opportunities for social-emotional development. Nevertheless, instead of supporting students during this challenging time, HCEA’s decision makes these challenges even more difficult. During work-to-rule, students will have to wait up to three weeks for their assignments to be graded, will have their clubs and extracurricular activities canceled and, in many cases, will be unable to make up missed assignments.

I strongly reject the work-to-rule decision from both professional and moral standpoints. I am not a union member, and this decision defines one of the many reasons why I refuse to belong to a teachers union.

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Rest assured, I am not alone. Many of my colleagues feel the same. Moreover, as a member of the Association of American Educators, the largest national, nonunion, professional educators’ organization, I am one of thousands of educators across the nation that refuses to put politics over students. The association believes the teaching profession should be, above all, student oriented, and supports and empowers educators for the benefit of students and the nation, instead of in pursuit of a partisan agenda.

As HCEA continues their political games, I will not waver in my commitment to my students. As I promised all my students and parents, I will continue to be on call at all hours and all days in support of my students’ education. I will continue to teach, grade the work of, coach, sponsor, mentor and in all other ways work with my students. No limits. No reservations. I detest politics, and I don’t like being used as a pawn by either side in this dispute. I understand both standpoints, but I refuse to belong to either side.

Instead, I stand for the students and their futures. I want all of my students and parents to know that I will never compromise students’ education. I am a professional. I have a job, a commitment and a mission: your children.

Vann Prime

The writer is a high school economics and history teacher at Mt. Hebron High School who has taught for 16 years.

Plastics pollution bill is the right way to go

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act is now winding its way through Congress. U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes and Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland have become co-sponsors for this bill. Thank you!

Plastic, an unsustainable human-made oil derivative, has been around for a long time. We see it everywhere.

This hazardous product contains direct toxicity, including lead, cadmium and mercury. It is an endocrine disrupter of disastrous proportions, which can lead to immune suppression, cancer, birth defects and developmental problems in children. Studies have been done for years showing the damage plastics can have on the health of all living things.

Finally, instead of the pollution only being the responsibility of the consumer, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act puts the onus on the producers and manufacturers, essentially, the source of the products. If passed, corporations will be both responsible for their pollution and required to create, maintain and finance recycling and waste programs. It halts new and growing plastic facilities until health protections are put in place. It encourages businesses to create reusable products that can be recycled. It lessens and bans particular single-use and nonrecyclable plastic products. It provokes enormous investments in domestic composting and recycling infrastructure.

A decade ago, I watched a documentary about a city in China which imported plastic from the United States and the plastic was 3 feet high throughout the town. Back then I knew plastic was an increasing problem, not only in the U.S. but in the world. It seems to me we now have a solution aiding in this massive problem. Please let your representatives and senators know you are interested in mitigating this horrendous problem and support the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.

Carla Tevelow

Columbia

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