NC educators plan job action for Nov. 4

Fed up with state cuts to public school budgets, a group of North Carolina educators are planning a job action on November 4 to protest the cuts.

The teachers organizing the job action have created a Facebook event page called “Nov. 4th Teacher Walkout Day.”

Teachers were denied a pay raise by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the Republican controlled General Assembly, but the walkout is about more than a pay raise. It’s about the state’s wavering commitment to public education and public schools.

The new state budget reduces state funding for public education by $500 million, siphons public funds to private schools, and increases public school classroom sizes.

The state’s main teacher association has distanced itself from the movement.

In a statement about the planned walkout , the North Carolina Association of Educators said that the planned job action “is the consequence of the General Assembly and Governor McCrory for failing to live up to their constitutional requirements to enact budgets and policies that provide for a sound, basic education for all students in North Carolina’s public schools.”

But the job action is “NOT an NCAE endorsed or sanctioned activity.”

NCAE said that it would continue to hold politicians accountable for their budget cuts.

Some news reports have labeled the planned walkout as a strike, something forbidden by North Carolina law.

But organizers of the walkout characterize it as a job action that could take many forms.

“Take a stand on November 4th and get your voice heard in any way you feel comfortable,” reads the description of action on the organizers’ website.  “For some it may be taking a personal day and marching downtown.  Others may prefer to overload stakeholders in our state and education with emails and calls.  Make calls to news sources and government agencies or passing out fliers explaining the condition that our students and educators are facing. The goal is to get the word out and have our voices heard.  We encourage all citizens to speak out particularly on this day, November 4th.  Parents, students, retired teachers, teachers who have left the profession… all are welcome to participate in this event!”

The group’s Facebook page is filled with comments about the reasons that some teachers will be taking part in the action.

But they all can be tied back to the state leaders’ public education budget cuts, which lift the cap on class sizes, eliminate 9,000 educator positions in public schools, eliminate 10,000 Pre-K slots for young children, eliminate incentive pay for advanced degrees, and divert $50 million in public funds to private schools.

The budget also does not include a pay raise for teachers.

“We haven’t had a substantial pay raise since 2008,” said a special education teacher last summer to NEA Today after the budget was passed. “I work a second job. I’m going to have to look at my finances and see if I have to work more [hours] at my second job. I understand the need to be fiscally responsible, but at the same time you can’t say, ‘Oh we’re going to be fiscally responsible with education, but not with other things.’ It needs to be fair.”

According to NEA Today, many North Carolina teachers work a second job to make ends meet.

Since 2005, North Carolina teacher pay has been in a race to the bottom.

In 2005, state average teacher pay ranked 27th nationally. By 2012, it had plunged to 46th, making it much more difficult to attract a highly qualified educators to the profession.

As can be expected, community reaction to the job action has varied widely.

Some have criticized it, but others have embraced it.

“We spend $12,000 to educate a student and $40,000 to incarcerate that poorly educated student,” said the Rev. William D. Burton in a comment on the Facebook page “If teachers were given $40,000 per yr. per student, we may not need any prisons at all!”

” I am a retired educator who is heartbroken for the teachers and their students,” said Carolyn Pruitt. “All the decision makers want is data collection… When do the teachers get to plan and teach? When do the children get to learn? And don’t even get me started on the lack of funds and  reduction of valuable teacher assistants.”

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