We should all rally May 1st
Published April 25, 2019
By Tom Campbell
I’ve been listening to the “back and forth” about the planned teacher rally next Wednesday and there are good points being made by both sides.
Sadly, teachers have learned from cohorts in other states that the best way to get the attention of and action from those making decisions is to strike, because it works. Our state doesn’t allow strikes, however many say this year’s event looks like one. So many teachers are taking personal leave on the same day that schools are unable to function and many systems have chosen to close.
Too many cooks spoil the broth and I challenge you to find a profession that has more bosses than education. Think about it. We’ve got the Governor, State Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction, the legislature, local school Superintendents and local boards of education, along with parents, all with their own personal and political agendas. We’ve got those leaning left, those leaning right, and both accusing the other of trying to impose their ideology on education. Can we all agree there is too much politics in education?
Thankfully, there are many examples of students who are receiving the sound basic education our constitution guarantees, but far too many aren’t. We fuss and fight over specific methods or line item expenditures, but large numbers are abandoning traditional public schools in favor of charters, private or home schools. We should spend some time analyzing why they leave and what we should do in response.
While not denying that some leave because of racial factors, some parents don’t feel their child is sufficiently challenged or, conversely, may be unreasonably challenged. Some leave because, in our attempts for accountability, our schools test too much, have too many “thou shalt and thou shalt nots,” and don’t spend enough time teaching history, civics, basic finance, arts or music. We favor school choice but don’t want to leave our traditional schools unable to accomplish their mission.
Buoyed by the success from last year’s rally (as well as results from other states) the Day of Action has 5 goals. First, they demand enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses and other health professionals to meet national standards. They insist on a $15 an hour minimum wage for all school personnel, a 5% raise for non-certified staff, teachers, admin personnel and a 5 percent cost of living adjustment for retirees. They want Medicaid expanded to improve students’ health and they want retiree health benefits reinstated for those who will be hired after 2021.
In a perfect world the teachers’ goals are idealistic but perhaps overly ambitious. Just as you steer a big ship on a new course two degrees at a time more success might be achieved by fewer, more specific and prioritized goals.
We ask our teachers to do an almost impossible task under difficult circumstances. Whether you agree with all their goals or approve of their tactics in closing schools I hope you can agree we need to support them in educating our children. This rally is more than teacher pay or money; most acknowledge they didn’t go into this profession because of money. Almost as important is the respect and appreciation for the job they do. Maybe we should all rally in Raleigh for education on May 1.