NC teachers hold 'walk-in' entering schools Monday
Posted November 4, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina public school educators who are unhappy with recent spending cutbacks and another year without pay raises highlighted those challenges as they headed to work this week.
Many teachers on Monday participated in a "walk-in" in which they wore red and entered together through the front door on the way to morning classes as a sign of unity.
Some also held meetings after school to discuss concerns, and many invited parents and elected officials to visit.
The North Carolina Association of Educators promoted the event as an alternative to a "walk-out" – public employee strikes are against state law – pushed by some teachers in recent months.
Critics of the spending cutbacks, like Public Schools First North Carolina and the North Carolina Justice Center, say public school teachers are being asked to do more with less while the state budget eliminates more than 9,300 education positions. In addition, the groups say, class sizes are growing while support is decreasing, and they say budget allocations for textbooks, classroom supplies and technology is inadequate.
They also point to only one "negligible raise" in the past five years.
Some teachers also demonstrated outside the state Capitol on Morgan Street Monday morning, holding signs that included messages like, 'Honk if you support teachers."
Parents, like Hope Carmichael, also joined in the event, including one at Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh.
"I applaud them for teaching our kids and for wanting to stand up for what is right," Carmichael said.
Megan Busick is a teacher at the school.
"I feel like a pot of boiling water. I've gotten to that point where I'm at a rapid boil and the froth is building, and if I don't get there quick, I'm going to overflow."
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, released a statement Monday denouncing the "walk-in" as a gimmick meant to boost NCAE membership.
“We appreciate the overwhelming majority of our teachers whose hard work and commitment are vital to the success of our children. And we appreciate the right of North Carolinians to exercise their First Amendment rights and welcome a productive dialogue," he said in a statement. "But we don’t appreciate the bully tactics of an organized union that puts kids’ safety at risk to gin up its membership and inflate the salaries of its executives. There is a time and place for everything – our schools are not the place for politics and our children should not be the pawns.”
The NCAE did not immediately respond to Berger's statement.
Some Republican legislators say the teachers group is still actively promoting a strike.
The group's top leader says that's not true. NCAE president Rodney Ellis said last week that the group turned the event into a "walk-in" so students would not be unattended and no one would get fired.
"If you get a handful of teachers walking out of their classroom, that only results in teachers losing their positions," he said. "As admirable as it is and the energy is there – and we appreciate that, we think there are more – there are other ways that we can get our message across."
The walk-in is meant to spark discussion among teachers and parents about challenges like spending cuts and low teacher pay, he said, adding that it's not meant to be a political protest.
Individual schools and parent groups decided for themselves whether they want to take part, he said.
Wake County Public School System officials told school administrators "neither to orchestrate the events nor obstruct them" as long as they did not interfere with classroom activities, district spokeswoman Renee McCoy said.