Fast forward to 2019 in the state of North Carolina and educators across the state are having their own May Day. They want to show legislators how beautiful the public schools can be if respected and treated with dignity.
NCAE, the North Carolina Association of Educators, lead over 25,000 teachers last May in a rally to show solidarity with what was needed to give students the schools they deserved and this year, NCAE is spearheading another rally. Some educator demands are getting per pupil spending to the national average, improved compensation for all educators, at least 500 additional school nurses, social workers and counselors to improve health options for students, and replacing or fix crumbling schools.
According to NCAE’s webpage, President Mark Jewel stated, “North Carolina public school educators, parents and our communities demand better for our students. These specific public education priorities will give every student an opportunity to succeed and help recruit and retain educators as we face a critical shortage in our classrooms and school buildings.”
A year later, and not much has changed this year’s rally has 5 key points:
-Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national professional-to-student standards;
-Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESPs (non-certified staff), teachers, administrators, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees;
-Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families;
-Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017;
-Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013.
Teachers from all over are continuing to support this cause for a second year in a row by writing letters, making phone calls, and taking personal days off to be in Raleigh on May 1st. Why? Well to be honest, not much has changed. So far, over half of the state’s school districts now have unscheduled teacher workdays in order to address the growing number of educators willing to speak up for their students. And they aren’t the only ones willing to speak out in support of this day of standing up for public education.
Candidate for Raleigh Mayor Caroline Sullivan said “This rally, like the historic rally last year, is an outcry from our teachers and school personnel to bring much needed attention to the drastic cuts made to public education by the General Assembly. Teachers and school personnel continue to be underpaid, classrooms continue to be under-resourced and the General Assembly continues to place a financial burden on our local school systems. As a mother of public school children, I understand the importance of ensuring every teacher and every classroom has the resources they need to provide a quality education for every child.”
High school student and rising political star Greear Webb spoke of education’s shortfalls as well. “Students are affected most by lack of funding, so we are affected by the teacher’s efforts. That’s not to say that our teachers don’t do the best they can, but when they’re hamstrung by a lack of funding, working multiple jobs and living paycheck to paycheck, they cannot provide the best learning experience possible. We want the best education possible. We want to be taught by teachers who feel they are valued for the work they do because our education is the path to our futures. When our educations improve our futures improve, and this rally seeks to improve education and the lives of students. Teachers need to be better empowered to give the best education they can to their students. When you pay teachers, custodial staff, cafeteria workers, transportation staff, and teacher assistants what they are worth, then school systems get students who are more enthusiastic about and engaged in their instruction. If school staff across the board are better funded, they can provide a cleaner and safer environment, with better organized and supplied classrooms in order to provide for a more engaging and interactive curriculum.”
Middle School Counselor and parent, Dentra Keith’s words echoed his sentiments. “For me personally, the rally is necessary to increase awareness and intensify the focus on improving teacher working conditions (Raising teacher pay to equate the national average, reduce class size, and increase the number of support staff) Teachers are consistently overworked with the constant new demands of district mandates, yet underpaid which does tends to make many educators feel as if their overall well being doesn’t matter.”
Beth Dotson Messersmith, NC State Coordinator for MomsRising, a national advocacy group of mothers from all walks of life, wants educators to know they are supported as well. “Not a teacher, but for me it’s critical that NC ensure that every school has access to the resources they need for their kids to thrive. Poverty doesn’t end at the classroom door, but we aren’t providing the resources or support to ensure that every single child in our state has the same shot at a successful future. Also critically important that our teachers and support staff are paid enough to be able to support their families without working multiple jobs. Teaching is a profession and should be treated as such. When our teachers and staff are financially stressed and worried for their own families, it’s unreasonable to expect them to be able to walk into schools where so many kids are dealing with trauma and multiple ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and focus on meeting the requirements of high stakes tests.”
“The rally is necessary for my child because my child struggles in school. As a kid on the spectrum, my child requires a lot of extra support. Those supports like TAs (teaching assistants) and school psychologist aren’t readily available due to continuous cuts by the state. He might have them one day and not the next. This impacts his ability to learn in a regular classroom setting. He can achieve, but he needs support. My child also has anxiety. He knows when his teachers are stressed and worn out. He senses their pain and it effects him too. We need to bring statewide attention so that all children can reach their potential. Our state needs to fund classrooms. It needs to fund its teachers, its TAs, its support staff, the supplies, and all the children in that classroom. It is their responsibility and its high time they achieved the goal of a fully funded public school.” said Susan Book, mother of a special needs student in Wake County.
At the end of the day, ask just about any teacher and they will tell you the state of public education is not where it needs to be. And we will not be silenced by minimal and dishonest support. We will continue to advocate and demand elected officials do what they were put in office to do. It is their sworn oath to protect and adequately support citizens of this great state. Those citizens include preschoolers to college graduates. I advise those in office to take heed. It seems well over 20,000 rallying educators (maybe more this year) don’t have a problem knocking on the front door until it’s done right.
For more details about the rally, All Out for 5/1 rally for education, go to: https://www.red4ednc.com/
NaShanda Cooke is an educator for all students, collectively and individually. She shows up every day to serve them.