The current General Assembly majority is very scared of public school teachers and those who support them. Without their support in this next election cycle, many candidates for office simply cannot win. That’s why the NCGA majority has touted so many “band-aid” style electioneering schemes to make them appear pro-public education.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded. And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.
Make no mistake. This GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”
North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth noting. The list below is not by any means complete, but it paints a clear picture.
- Removal of due-process rights – This keeps teachers from being able to advocate for schools.
- Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed – Removed a means for teachers to invest in their profession.
- Push for Merit Pay – Never has worked in education. Besides, all teachers assume duties outside of teaching.
- “Average” Raises – Average and Actual do not mean the same thing.
- Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups – specifically NCAE.
- Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – And many of the tests are made and graded by for-profit entities.
- Less Money Spent per Pupil – NC still has not approached pre-recession levels adjusted for inflation.
- Remove Caps on Class Sizes – Teachers are teaching more students and sometimes more class sections.
- Jeb Bush School Grading System – This actually only shows how poverty affects public education.
- Cutting Teacher Assistants – Hurts elementary kids the most.
- Opportunity Grants – A Voucher scheme that profits private and religious schools.
- Unregulated growth of charter schools – No empirical data shows any improvement in student achievement with charter schools.
- Virtual Charter Schools – These are hemorrhaging in enrollment and are among the least effective.
- Innovative School District – Again, an idea that “profits” only those who take taxpayer money and has no successful track record no matter what state they have been established.
- Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – We are lacking in numbers to help supply the next generation of teachers for a growing state.
- Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Another way to discourage bright students from becoming teachers. It has been brought back, but is a shadow of its former self.
- HB 514 – The bill that is allowing affluent communities to set up their own charter schools that will in essence resegregate school populations while using property tax revenue to help finance new charter school construction.
So what can be done? Actually lots. And it all starts in the ballot boxes.
Remember, North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system (and 15 other city school systems). According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in over 60. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system. And they are strong in numbers. Add to that their supporters. The numbers get bigger.
If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly has done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: “North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight.” If our communities are to recover and thrive, then this trend must stop.
Do your homework and see which candidates truly support our public schools.
Educate yourself, then please vote.