To say that Shakopee teachers have been repeatedly let down on pretty much every front over the last several years would be an understatement. We know many of them felt intimated and bullied during Rod Thompson’s reign. Then their union negotiated measly pay raises because there supposedly wasn’t any money. Last spring, they had to quickly learn new technologies to teach virtually. Just last week, voters said they’d rather cut more than 40 teaching positions than pay about $50 a year more in taxes.

Reasons for voting against the levy varied. Some are angry about past mismanagement. Some say there’s still a lack of budget transparency coupled with ongoing wastefulness. Others say they’re strapped for cash and don’t have any extra money. Still others think the school already gets enough tax money. There were other reasons too, which added together, made passing the levy an uphill battle.

When the levy failed, people were celebrating online. The fact that many people no longer trust the district with money or don’t have money to give is not something to celebrate. In fact, it’s incredibly sad for our entire community, even if some school problems are self-inflicted.

Several teachers who positively impacted my kids during their time in Shakopee schools have moved to other districts. That’s also incredibly sad for Shakopee. They are the type of dedicated, inspirational, motivational teachers we want for our kids. But they were tired of dealing with never-ending budget issues and turmoil, and worrying about their jobs, so they left. I certainly don’t blame them.

Talking to teachers is an eye-opening experience. They have to deal with overbearing parents and have their hands tied when they have kids in class who refuse to behave. There are a lot of barriers to teaching, and not always a lot of support.

Many teachers I’ve talked with say they spend money out of their own pockets for their classrooms. It’s often for school supplies. Unfortunately, this is the norm for teachers today. A survey by SheerID found that 99% of kindergarten through high school teachers buy classroom supplies with their own money. About half spend more than $250, and 15% spend more than $500 a year. On top of this, teachers have to deal with critics who say they’re overpaid.

Shakopee teachers, especially at the high school, probably face a more demanding job than ever. They had to switch to the academy model, and within the last six months, figure out how to teach students remotely. Meanwhile, there’s a contingent of people who think teachers’ pay should be cut because of distance learning.

I haven’t seen any other profession come under fire by people who say employees should take a pay cut because they’re working remotely. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any other profession that has so many people without any hands-on, relevant experience telling those who do the work in the classroom how to do their jobs. It has to be exhausting and frustrating.

It’s shameful and disgraceful that our teachers are feeling the brunt of bad decisions made by others. The school’s job is to teach our kids, so it’s painful to see teachers on the chopping block when finances need to be reconciled. I can’t understand what’s more important for Shakopee schools than our teachers. It seems like many other positions are nice to have if there’s money, while teachers are essential. It’s hard to believe that as teachers face a reduction in force, there are other jobs and expenses at the school that are more important than theirs.

If the district follows through and cuts over 40 teaching positions, it’ll be another distressing chapter for our schools. I hope Shakopee teachers know that there are people like me who greatly admire and respect what they do every day, are thankful that they helped make our kids smarter and better people, and look forward to the day when teachers have the resources they need because teaching is prioritized.

Brett Martin is a community columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.

Events