“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 not “behind” those closed doors.

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 or pushing an initiative, 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, too many of these “innovations” that have been created and enacted in North Carolina lack a crucial and vital component: teacher input.

Think of  those “new and pioneering solutions” that include the new teacher licensure and pay plan, the continuing 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 wide 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, push for merit pay, bonus pay, removal of longevity pay, removal of class size caps and then the recent hoaxes of indoctrination and the teaching of CRT.

The list goes on.

Were there any teachers involved in these reforms? Any teacher advocacy groups consulted? Any way a teacher could chime in other than a questionnaire that only one question on it that allowed for multiple answers from a prepared drop-down menu?

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 that will be debated this next long session that will probably have no real teacher input. And while many may have the veneer of goodwill, underneath they still may be hollow.

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 helped lead the nation in educational innovation.

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

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 is to vote for pro-public education leaders.