A few last-minute thoughts as educators and education supporters prepare for their march in Raleigh today: Don’t forget the sunscreen and the protein bars. And remember that many who can’t make the trip stand with you in spirit. Go get ’em.
As we said earlier this week, the day won’t be a picnic. Despite the support most educators have from the public — including many parents who get to see and hear firsthand from their children just what a good job their teachers do — they face resistance from some quarters in Raleigh. And that’s just a shame.
Senate leader Phil Berger closed last week by sending his talking points to newspapers around the state, touting what he feels are the reasons teachers should be happy with their lot. He says that teachers are doing better under Republicans than they did when Democrats were in charge, and couldn’t resist labeling the N.C. Association of Educators, which organized the march, as a far-left “special interest education lobby.” He cited the annual pay raises the Republican-led legislature has given to teachers for years now, moving North Carolina up in rankings from 37th last year to 29th this year.
That’s true, and it’s commendable. But it’s a selective picture. In 2001-02, when Democrats were in charge, North Carolina ranked 19th in the nation for teacher pay. Its pay was within $2,000 of the then-national average of $44,655, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
We shouldn’t settle for being 37th in the nation.
Also last week, the state House proposed an education budget that would change state law to curtail teachers’ ability to rally in the future. It prohibits schools from giving permission for teachers to use personal leave on a school day unless they can confirm that a substitute teacher is available.
It’s part of a pattern in Republican-led Raleigh to punish rather than persuade. If they don’t like the outcome of an election, they write laws to reduce voter participation. If they don’t like the makeup of a city council or a school board, they write laws to change the balance. If they don’t like teachers coming to Raleigh to talk to them directly, they write a law to diminish future trips. Then they complain that voters and teachers see them as adversaries.
In this instance, it’s time for legislators to listen. Sure, teachers want decent pay. But the rally is for more than that one goal. They also want support for other school personnel. And they want resources to better the lives of their students.
They also want respect from a legislature that has verbally and legislatively opposed and maligned them. They deserve that much and more.