Posted In: ALEC, North Carolina
by Colleen Flaherty
For the thirteenth week in a row, thousands of North Carolina educators came together yesterday to rally against the anti-public education legislation passed by GOP radicals in what protesters are calling “Moral Monday.”
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Patricia Johnson, a former school social worker and parent, took her six-year-old son Tiller to take part in the excitement.
“I kept the message simple to explain to him why we went to the protest,” said Johnson. “I told him that there are lawmakers in Raleigh who are making decisions to take money away from his school and teachers. He loves his school and teachers, so he was very interested in the whole event.”
Johnson and thousands of other concerned educators, parents and students have come out against Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-led legislature in their attempt to pass extreme right-wing bills.
“The dismantling of public education in North Carolina has officially begun,” said Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) at a Moral Monday event last week.
The attack on public education in North Carolina is devastating and thorough. The budget includes several anti-public education provisions:
- Severely reducing targeted education funding – the budget will cut textbook funding by $77.4 million, classroom supply funding by $45.7 million and limited English proficiency funding by $6 million.
- While gutting public schools, $50 million dollars will go to unaccountable private school vouchers.
- Over 9,000 education positions will be eliminated.
- There will be no pay increases for educators. In five short years, North Carolina has gone from 25th in the nation for teacher salaries to 46th.
- The cap on class sizes will be gone.
- 10,000 pre-k slots will be removed.
- Pay increases for teachers with advanced degrees and teacher tenure will be eliminated.
“The elimination of class size caps, the firing of thousands of teacher assistants, investment in a private school voucher scheme that will only enrich those who seek to profit off of public schools and the devaluing of education as a career will position our state as a model in what not to do in education,” said Ellis in a letter to the state assembly.
“This budget will ensure that we will rank at the very bottom in our commitment to public education and professional educators.”
While legislature approval rating the state has sunk to 20 percent, the governor and his allies show no signs of relenting thanks to outside influence such as Art Pope, one of the leading proponents of the regressive legislation who has close ties to pro-corporate lobby groups like ALEC. Pope - also known as the “third Koch brother” – has funneled millions to GOP politicians in North Carolina, including Gov. McCrory who named Pope state budget director.
“Public educators and public schools are not failing our students, politicians are,” said Ellis. “[Legislators] are placing a sign on each school’s door that says, ‘quality educators need not apply.’”
Unfortunately for the people of North Carolina, the slew of extreme legislation isn’t just aimed at public schools:
- A sweeping tax bill will cut taxes by $600 million annually for those making over $250,000, while raising taxes on low-income workers.
- The governor is expected to sign a bill this week that will require a photo ID to vote, eliminate early voting and not allow students to vote in the same city where they attend college.
- 170,000 residents will lose their unemployment benefits, and for those who remain eligible, the maximum weekly benefit will be slashed from $536 to $350.
- Guns will be allowed to be purchased without a background check and carried in parks, playgrounds, restaurants and bars.
Fortunately, the fight is far from over. According to Ellis, if these laws go into effect, the NCAE plans to take legal action to challenge the constitutionality of the anti-education laws.
“While it pains us to see the devaluation of education by our elected officials, we will now shift our focus on the judiciary where we are confident that we will find yet another victory in our struggle to provide quality public education for every child,” said Ellis.
As for Johnson, she encourages everyone to keep at it and make their voices heard.
“Educators and parents should be involved in these protests to show the North Carolina legislators that these decisions affect the community as a whole,” said Johnson. “I plan on being back there with Tiller next Monday!”