Sticks and Stones: Why I’m Proud to be an “Educrat” (Never Mind that Man Behind the Curtain!)

by Dr. Jerry Burkett
Originally Published: February 15, 2012

In a recent blog by a lobbyist/fiscal conservative regarding a variety of issues related to education, I was labeled an “Educrat.” Somehow, both Webster’s and Funk & Wagnall’s missed defining this term. When I Googled the definition, I was led to satirical definitions from UrbanDictionary, Wiktionary, and other sources. The New York Daily News once used the term to describe an individual who worked in New York City’s education department. Other than these obscure examples, my attempts to infer a definition for “Educrat” came up empty.

What I could gather from the blog is that this term clearly carried a negative connotation. But why? What is it about education that has led grown men to name calling more suitable to a schoolyard playground than a website blog? Could it be that opponents to public education have an agenda other than so-called fiscal conservatism? Perhaps in hopes of obscuring their true agendas and allegiances, they throw out red meat and call names as bright, shiny distractors for their followers. (Whatever you do, don’t look at the man behind the curtain to see what his real motivations are!)

Education has become a target for many groups, from those seeking to privatize it for profit; those that want to reduce its public funding to protect the subsidized statuses of/rebates for Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Whatever; those who wish to eliminate public education and revert to homeschooling; school “choice” supporters; and even those so far out of the mainstream that they prefer we return to the good ol’ days of the one-room school house taught by a paddle-wielding, bible-bearing schoolmarm. That’s a lot of targets on the back of educators.

So rather than letting those that potentially wield a hidden agenda define who I am and what I do, I chose to take the initiative and finally define the obscure notion of Educrat once and for all.

So, what is an Educrat?

  • If Educrat means that I am committed to ensuring ALL children receive a quality education and the opportunities and promise that comes with it, then count me in. I will stubbornly hold the state of Texas to its responsibility to provide a free and adequate education for all.
  • If Educrat means that unlike some members of the 82nd legislature, I don’t see education as a dreaded “entitlement,” but rather a right provided to ALL children by the constitution of the great state of Texas, then I’m your man.
  • If Educrat means that I work in a 50-year old building to provide leadership and a quality education for 600 low socioeconomic elementary school students (including several homeless children) that are expected to pass the most difficult state standardized test to date, then I will nail the title to my office door.
  • If Educrat means that I stand at the front door of my school every day to welcome the bright, smiling faces of the kindergartners and new students that the 82nd legislature and Governor Perry failed to fund in their budget, then I will happily be there for them even when the state of Texas wasn’t.
  • If Educrat means I have dedicated my life to a field that impacts all aspects of society and our economy and have earned three degrees to support this most-important endeavor, then I will happily repay my student loans and sign the check as Dr. Jerry Burkett, Educrat.
  • If Educrat means that I desire the same opportunities for all children regardless of their place in society, then I’ll be pleased to join the club.
  • If Educrat means that even with advanced degrees, mandated certifications, and the responsibility for 600 students and 50 campus employees, I make less money than many plumbers (despite the urban legend about overpaid administrators), then I will still show up to work every day with great pride to serve my students, staff, and community.
  • If Educrat means I will spend time away from my own family, friends, and hobbies to be there for the children society (and, in some cases, even their own parents) left behind, then where do I sign up?
  • If Educrat means I work in my “spare time” to educate teachers, principals, legislators, and the community on the challenges facing public education in Texas, then I will emblazon the term on my business cards.
  • If Educrat means I work to come up with solutions — not excuses — to the problems facing education today rather than nitpick faults and trash and disrespect the system, then I wear the title with honor.
  • If Educrat means I am not beholden to special interest groups who are lobbying against public education in an effort to “starve the beast” and privatize education for profit, then I will honor the title and remain beholden only to the students I serve daily. My students are my ONLY special interest.

As an Educrat, I don’t pretend that education does not come with its share of problems, that all decisions are always made in the best interest of students, or that system reform isn’t necessary. However, I also recognize that these issues will be exploited by those with other motivations. In the spirit of lies, damned lies, and statistics, they will manipulate numbers to paint pictures that favor their cause — whatever that cause may be. In an effort to distract, they will exaggerate the supposed perks, benefits, and lavish facilities built for administrators. (A fiscal conservative group recently lamented the “temples” built for administrators and perks “beyond the dreams of Midas.” Personally, I’m not familiar with these types of school districts. The administrative offices for my urban school district are housed in a former Winn Dixie supermarket – far from the Taj Mahal described by these propogandists.) While these distractors are committed to obfuscating and attacking, I will instead spend my time as many Educrats do — working to make public education better, more efficient, and more effective for the students and taxpayers of Texas. All despite the best efforts of the public education opponents to tear it down.

Public education will always provide our children the best opportunity for a better life. It provides economic growth and societal stability. And I will never stop fighting to protect it. If that’s what makes me an Educrat, then I’m damned proud to carry the title.

Respectfully,

Dr. Jerry R. Burkett
Educrat

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