In case y’all haven’t heard, the teacher protests have come to North Carolina.
I was lucky enough to grow up in North Carolina in the ‘90s when schools were still pretty well-funded, especially compared to our neighbors here in the South. Terry Sanford’s vision of our state as a beacon of high-quality education was still alive and well back then, but ever since the recession and the hostile takeover of our General Assembly (get out and vote, y’all), our schools and students have been starved of funds.
We’ve been hemmorhaging teachers for years now as pay has been frozen or essentially decreased by inflation along with a freeze in per student funding. We haven’t adopted new textbooks in more than ten years. Other states have been able to poach our teachers and lure them with better benefits, including better health insurance and union representation.
See, I’ve never really understood some people describing teachers’ unions as these powerful organizations because it is illegal for our state employees, including teachers, to unionize. That’s one of the reasons pay has lagged compared to pay in other states: there is no seat at the table for a union representative advocating for educators. Of course, big corporations have a seat at the table, letting them get big corporate tax cuts, which have pushed revenue off a cliff, which means there’s even less money for schools.
But today was something very special. Teachers in Durham County started this movement, and it overspread the state in the last month or so. They decided to march on the Capitol on the opening day of the legislative session, demanding more funding for themselves, their classrooms, and communities, and dignity for their profession that has been so freely maligned by the people holding all the pursestrings. So many teachers requested the day off that nearly all the most populated counties had to close down for the day because they did not have enough substitute teachers to cover the protesters.
I don’t know how successful they will be in extracting more money from the misers in the General Assembly, but I know that people who value education are highly motivated to get out this November and vote for better representation. Hope is on the horizon, y’all, and I’m fucking excited!