Educators and advocates in red are getting the word out in multiple ways about the state of public education in NC.
The 2 day teacher trek
More than 50 teachers, parents and advocates marched 23 miles from Durham to the Capitol to bring attention to the needs of their students June 14 and 15, 2016. The 2 day teacher trek was previewed by CBS News affiliate WCNC on 5/28/16 in “Teachers plan 20 mile march to Raleigh for better school conditions.” Millbrook Elementary School teacher Kristen Beller said “[W]e know the reason our schools are not performing as high as they’re expected to is they’ve been stripped of resources.” What does she mean? Books! Pencils! Paper! Teacher Assistants! Support staff! Teachers have to buy some of these basics themselves. On the other hand, Beller said the classroom has become a safe haven for some of the lower income students. “We need more resources just to keep these children clean and fed.”
Public Education Advocacy Day – Students Deserve More!
“Educators wore red Wednesday in Raleigh as they lobbied lawmakers to fully fund education, establish raises for all workers, and told politicians to vote against House Bill 1080 and to increase the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for retirees,” as covered by WBTV in “NC educators lobby in Raleigh,” 6/15/16. Over 40 people came from Charlotte alone! The large group asked their representatives to vote against bills that directly hurt public schools-
- ‘Achievement School Districts’ – allowing private charter school companies to take over low performance/poor schools (House Bill 1080)
- By diverting literally tens of millions of dollars via school vouchers to private (mostly religious) schools (Budget bill)
- By putting money that public schools desperately need into a ‘rainy day fund’ (Budget bill)
We should tax corporations, not take money from our children! And make the government account for taxpayer money!
Press Conference with moving, beautiful and passionate speeches
The outdoors press conference was full of moving, beautiful and passionate speeches by teachers, teacher assistants, PTA, Vice President of the NC Association for Educators, and allies (Reverend Barber of the NC-NAACP). A Spanish teacher and parent spoke about how her 1st and 2nd graders’ classes were salvaged by a set of grandparents who consistently volunteered to cover for Teacher Assistants (TA) who lost their jobs thanks to 2013 cuts. Sadly, other classes didn’t have those volunteers. She spoke of how the Spanish department had lost a Spanish teacher so classes had been much larger, which is especially hard for beginning classes. She told us their textbooks were from 2004 and falling apart from the inside out.
A TA told stories about the difference she makes reaching and teaching her young charges and by offloading the teacher. This woman has worked as a TA for around 20 years and is making only about $19,000. But at least she still has a job. Over 3000 TAs were “let go” in 2013 when the NCGA cut funding for them. Their students face lack of food, lack of medical care, lack of support at home. Teachers and TAs try to help.
Teachers deal first hand with fallout from other bad decisions that NC has made, like refusal to expand Medicaid – disproportionately hurting single mothers and HB 2 – since a closed community like a school is more likely to be in a Trans child’s business.
The press conference was very well attended, despite the heat!
Failed attempt to meet with Governor McCrory
The teacher group had tried repeatedly to set up an appointment with Governor McCrory or his staff. Over a hundred teachers, students, parents and advocates were outside of the Capitol during business hours – 4:45pm – and the doors were already locked. Teacher Bryan Proffitt tried repeatedly to reach someone in the Capitol. We waited, chanting, until about 5:20pm, when we walked around the building to check all of the doors. The Governor and staff refused to respond or come out to meet anyone.
Durham teacher Angie had written excellent chants for us. Here are a few.
“Money for jobs and education / Not for mass incarceration!”
“Your data doesn’t really define us / teaching is more art than science”
“When education becomes for profit / how will the people ever stop it?”
“So sad some teachers, while getting paid / still qualify for Medicaid.”
In the end, 14 teachers and advocates were arrested to bring attention to public school needs. The teenager next to me cried as her mom was arrested.
The spin from the Governor’s office has been offensive and off target. Too bad these spokesmen for McCrory have no time to talk to North Carolina teachers, parents and students, but plenty of time to talk to the press. Too bad McCrory’s people are making up stories about who is motivating the teachers. The teachers concern for their students and the future of public education is their motivation.
Teachers know #StudentsDeserveBetter. Why won’t Governor McCrory even give teachers the courtesy of a meeting? Is he afraid to face the people that experience the fallout from bad laws he’s signed?