State News

Teachers rally against possible education cuts

Posted March 18, 2011 10:11 a.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2011 6:20 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina educators holding their annual meeting in Raleigh are worried about what the General Assembly may do with funding for public education and teachers' jobs next fall.

The North Carolina Association of Educators held a noontime rally and march Friday outside the Raleigh Convention Center to highlight the need to protect investments in the public schools by lawmakers.

Teachers at the rally wore red T-shirts with the words "Unite Organize Empower" on them. Chants of "Children first" and "No more cuts" rang out as they marched through downtown Raleigh.

"We're now investing less in education than 45 other states, and it's unacceptable," said Rodney Ellis, NCAE vice president.

Although most lawmakers left Raleigh on Thursday and the march went nowhere near the State Capitol or the Legislative Building, teachers expressed confidence that their message would be heard.

"Public support in general will help our cause because these people driving down the road have children in schools too," preschool teacher Rebecca Alder said.

Ideas being floated by lawmakers could eliminate funding for 5 to 10 percent of classroom positions statewide, which would mean the loss of thousands of teachers and even more teaching assistants.

No decisions have been made by budget-writers in the new Republican majority in the legislature, but GOP lawmakers say they have little choice but to cut education spending.

"We've got a humongous deficit. We've got to make some cuts," said Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake.

Gov. Beverly Perdue made protecting education from spending cuts the top priority in her proposed budget.

Hunt, one of the senior budget writers in the Senate, acknowledged that education is a key economic driver and said lawmakers intend to protect schools as best they can. Spending on public schools will be cut less than funding for state universities and community colleges, according to Republican lawmakers.

"It's impossible to protect them all. You can't protect all the teacher assistants. You can't protect all the teachers," Hunt said.

Amanda Cranford, a kindergarten teacher in her third year, said she worries about her future and that of her students.

"They need teachers and small class sizes. There's no way to teach classes that have 30 kids in them," Cranford said.

"I love my classroom. I love my kids. My classroom is about my kids," teacher David Beaver said.

Nearly 1,000 delegates from every school district in the state are participating in the convention, which ends Saturday. The association has nearly 60,000 members.

"We're going to have thousands and thousands of educators who actually cast votes. We are a voting population," Ellis said. "If we are not heard, at the very least, then we will remember that come election time next year."