Monday Memo (5/7)

The Monday Memo is a subscription-only weekly email from Progress NC Action providing messaging, talking points and links of interest.  

May 16 March closes majority of NC School Districts

More than ⅔ of all school districts in North Carolina have announced plans to close Wednesday, May 16, for a planned teacher march at the NC General Assembly. 16,000 teachers have pledged to show up at the rally, on the first day of the NC General Assembly’s short budget session. This has the potential to be the largest political action by a group in the state’s history.

  • In North Carolina, public employees are prohibited from formally organizing or collectively bargaining. This means teachers as a group hold very little power as compared to politicians. May 16 is the day when teachers begin to reclaim their power to send a powerful message against those who have an agenda to defund, discredit and ultimately dismantle our public schools.
  • Adjusted for inflation and enrollment, North Carolina is spending less than half on classroom supplies than it did before the Great Recession in 2008. Parents and teachers are forced to fill the gap caused by tax cuts for corporations and people at the top.
  • With almost every budget they pass, the NCGA politicians make life harder for teachers. Average teacher pay in North Carolina is now $9600 LESS than the national average. North Carolina spends $2400 LESS per student than the national average.
  • When adjusted for inflation, North Carolina teacher pay is DOWN 9.4% since 2009.
  • Teachers participating in the May 16 rally said they announced their plans weeks in advance to make sure families have enough time to make child care plans and ensure that children who usually receive school meals get fed.

Bottom Line: The May 16 rally should send a strong and clear message to politicians that teachers and parents will not stand for one more attack on public schools. It’s time for lawmakers to listen and to prioritize education over tax cuts for millionaires and corporations.

Teachers demand better conditions for students

The 16,000+ teachers rallying this week in Raleigh have released their list of demands. Although their paychecks are below the national average, they are prioritizing classroom spending, and student support. This is a powerful message that these marchers are not just working in their own self interest. Teachers want a better state for students to learn in.  They want a public education system that help build a state that offers an equal opportunity for everyone.

According to the North Carolina Association of Educators, their broad goals are:

  • Significant investment in per-pupil spending so our students have the resources to be successful.
  • A multi-year professional pay plan for educators, education support professionals, administrators and all other school personnel. This plan must include restoration of compensation for advanced degree and longevity. The plan must also stop the flat-lining of experienced educator’s pay.
  • Investing in the health and well-being of our students and making schools safer through increased school nurses, counselors, social workers and other support personnel and expansion of Medicaid to improve the health of our communities.
  • Fix our crumbling schools and large class sizes with a Statewide School Construction Bond.
  • Prioritize Classrooms and Not Corporate Board Rooms.

Bottom Line: North Carolina students deserve the best education and best teachers in the country. North Carolina teachers are tired of the legislature putting corporate tax breaks ahead of public education. We must all demand change before we fall even further behind the rest of the country.

The predictable ignorant pushback to the teacher rally has arrived

Although politicians rarely hesitate to voice support for teachers and school systems, some have refused to actually stand with educators. In addition to refusing to fully fund classrooms and buildings, some politicians are attacking those who want to.

  • State Rep Mark Brody (R-Union County) said on social media: “Let’s call this what it is, Teacher Union thugs want to control the education process! I am speaking up because I don’t want Union County schools, and for that matter all NC school systems, to turn into Chicago. Let the Union thugs get their way now and we are halfway there.”
  • Senator Phil Berger (R-Rockingham County) indicated he thinks the massive political action is illegal: “Teacher strikes are illegal in NC, and in some respects what we’re seeing looks like a work slowdown, and looks like a fairly typical union activity, and the people of NC don’t support that sort of action.”
  • NC Superintendent of School Mark Johnson, spoke out against the closings and said he wished teachers would protest on their off-hours. “I hope more school boards do not have to close schools that day,” he said in a statement.
  • NC House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland County) told CNN he thinks the teachers’ descriptions of classroom conditions and teacher pay are overblown. “When we peel back the political rhetoric on teacher pay, the facts indicate North Carolina educators received considerable gains in compensation for the incredible work they do in our schools,” Moore said.

Bottom Line: The fact politicians are pushing back and calling teachers liars and thugs is a good indicator of their priorities. They claim to support education while at the same time taking away money for classroom supplies and passing healthcare and tax bills that are harmful to teachers.