June 30, 2016

Teachers Talk Back: Tiffany Moyer-Washington

Tiffany Moyer-Washington is a Hartford resident and has been teaching English Language Arts in Hartford Public Schools for 12 years. She recently served on E4E-Connecticut’s first statewide Teacher Policy Team on School Finance. In this conversation with Outreach Director John Tucker, she shares her thoughts on the current state of school finance as well as why teachers need to advocate for change.

John Tucker (JT): Having seen your work on the School Finance TPT, it’s so clear that you care deeply about the issue of equitable funding for all students. What experiences have led you to be so passionate?

Tiffany Moyer-Washington (TMW): I’ve noticed throughout the years how much insufficient and inequitable funding impacts the quality of education. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t see the connection. As time went on I began to see the disadvantages that kids face through no fault of their own, which is a travesty. For example, this summer I’m teaching at a writing camp at a school in a Hartford suburb, and the difference in access to technology is astounding. My son attends the camp as well, and even though he has a learning disability, at this school he has access to resources and technology that help him learn that he doesn’t have access to in Hartford. It’s amazing that two districts right next to one another can have such a disparity in resources.

JT: What major shifts do we need to help solve these inequities?

TMW: I think we need to shift policy but we also need to shift mindsets. Here in Connecticut, school funding is heavily based on a town’s ability to levy property taxes. This leads to affluent towns having far more resources than towns that don’t have a large property tax base. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer but under current structures, it’s just not.

I also think that teachers and parents across the state need to realize what’s going on when it comes to educational issues. When I talk to my friends who teach in the suburbs, they’re simply not aware that these inequities exist.

JT: Why do you feel that teachers can solve such an enormous problem?

TMW: Being an educator is not just a job, it’s a moral responsibility to the students in front of us and our society. As teachers, we have a responsibility to fight for equity in education; we are the professionals on the ground and are most able to see the disparities and push for change.

JT: What’s your call to action for E4E educators across the country?

TMW: I think teachers need to be familiar with what the funding practice is in their area, including how their local taxes are being distributed to fund education. We collectively need to take a hard look at ourselves. If we don’t live in the district we teach in and if we’re not willing to send our own children to our schools, we need to ask ourselves why that is. If we realize that the reasons we don’t send our kids to our neighborhood school are because massive inequities exist there, then we have to do something about it. If that school isn’t good enough for our kids, it’s not good enough for anybody’s kid. Once you realize that, you have to act.