“At” The Table or “On” the Menu: Reclaiming a Voice As Teachers in Public School Policy

You can be either “at” the table or “on” the table.

For teachers in North Carolina, there are many other prepositions that could identify the relationship between the legislation process and teacher input such as “under” the table, “without” a place at the table, or “behind” the table.

As a veteran public school teacher, when I see entities like BEST NC or other “business-minded” reformers defending or lauding a piece of legislation, I take it with a grain of salt.

Or an entire salt block.

Aside from the glowing generalities that sprinkle the rhetoric of many a reformer, I could not help but think that so many other “innovations” that have been created and enacted in North Carolina, they lack a crucial and vital component: teacher input.

Think of  those “new and pioneering solutions” that include the new principal pay plan, the rise of charter schools, the expansion of vouchers, the gutting and rebirth of a distant relative in the Teaching Fellows Program, and much more.

They all have one thing in common: no teacher input.

When the NC General Assembly went into GOP hands and McCrory came to the governor’s mansion, the process of “reforming” education began in earnest. There was the removal of due-process rights, the removal of graduate degree pay, Standard 6, push for merit pay, bonus pay, removal of longevity pay, removal of class size caps and then the placing of class size caps without funds to hire extra teachers or build extra classrooms, etc.

The list goes on.

Were there any teachers involved in these reforms? Any teacher advocacy groups consulted? Any way a teacher could chime in?

Those are not rhetorical questions. And considering that the current General Assembly seems bent upon diluting the voice of groups like NCAE, it should not be a stretch to realize that teachers are not consulted when it comes to schools.

There are a slew of bills dealing with teachers and public schools being “debated” this session that have had no real teacher input. And while many may have the veneer of goodwill, underneath they still may be hollow.

They seem to be “all of a sudden important” because a bunch of teachers and public education advocates worked to break super-majorities and now a pro-public education governor has true veto power.

When education reformers try and push their agendas can they actually really claim that they have extended relationships with actual teachers and teacher groups?

At one time we as a state led the nation in educational innovation.

We sure did. We were considered one of the most progressive public education state systems in the country.

But that was before teachers were not allowed to be “at” the table any longer.

However, there are ways that the table ( and the menu) can be reclaimed. One such way happens on May 1st.

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