Shameful List of Demands include basic needs like retiree healthcare and mental health for students
This Wednesday, teachers from all over North Carolina will flood Raleigh for the May 1st Day of Action. Organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators, this is the second year thousands of educators will lobby state legislators with a list of demands.
Last year’s rally drew 20,000 teachers, educators, staff, and allies. This year’s march is expected to equal or surpass those numbers, and because of the expected turn-out, many counties, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, have elected to make May 1 a teacher workday (no classes) to accommodate the teachers, as well as save teachers the $50 it would normally cost for them to pay for a substitute.
Their demands include:
▪ Enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standard,
▪ A $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5 percent raise for all school employees and a 5 percent cost of living adjustment for retirees.
▪ Expand Medicaid to improve the health of students and families.
▪ Reinstate state retiree health benefits for teachers who will be hired after 2021.
▪ Restore extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees such as a master’s degree.
As the rally has gained momentum, some NC lawmakers are working to narrow the criteria for cancelling classes and granting teachers personal leave, in order to limit future rallies. When contacting your local legislator in support of the teachers and their list of demands, please make sure to also mention the new proposed law and how it will impact the ability of teachers to lobby for changes that impact teachers, students, and the overall community.
DefCLT reached out to several teachers who are choosing to march May 1. Below are their stories in their words (some portions have been edited for brevity and/or clarity).
Merisha D. Leak, M.A. Ed., West Charlotte High School
Naysayers would want everyone to believe that the teacher advocates who are participating in the rally on May 1 do not love our students and are only interested in serving ourselves. This is not the case.
I am measured against the state’s teacher evaluation rubric yearly, which assesses teachers with ratings ranging from “proficient” to “distinguished.” Wednesday, I am exercising my leadership requirements via Standard I: Teachers Demonstrate Leadership.
Element Ia requires that “teachers lead in their classrooms,” so I have communicated with my students the issues regarding public education, not only in my district, but across the state. Through that communication, we have discussed how the policies affect them now and how it will affect them in the future.
Element Ib states that “teachers demonstrate leadership in their schools.” I have worked with other members of Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators (CMAE) to connect with non-members within the school to hear their concerns about the state of public education under current policy. Going to Raleigh will also give me the opportunity to connect with other educators across the state. Contrary to what some want to believe, this is a day of learning.
Element Ic requires teachers to “lead the teaching profession” and I can think of no other way for educators to do that than to advocate for themselves and others to demand change to policy that currently negatively impacts students, schools, teachers, and the wider community. These are not just issues that affect students and educators in schools, but it negatively affects their lifestyles. For instance, though I hold a master’s degree, it is very difficult to afford housing in certain areas of Charlotte without Masters pay because my current income will not support it. If I am having issues with that, imagine how those who are currently working in our schools BARELY making a livable wage are struggling to provide for their families.
Element Id clearly states “teachers advocate for students and schools” with the requirement to achieve a rating of “distinguished.” The rubric requires that a teacher “actively participates, promotes, and provides strong supporting evidence for implementation of initiatives to improve education.” Please note that in this terminology, there is no limit placed on where this advocacy can take place, hence the need for rallies in the first place. What better way to advocate than to head to the state legislation and attempt to speak directly with state legislators who are affecting public education in this state based on agendas that are not supporting strong students, strong schools, or strong communities?
Lastly, Element Ie states “teachers demonstrate high ethical standards.” Please believe that educator leaders across this state have taken time to review the Code of Ethics and various handbooks, as well as connect with local district leaders to collaborate in a positive manner regarding May 1. These leaders are well-versed in the language and have substantial evidence to provide interested parties about the “technicalities” some people are using in their attempt to belittle the need for the march in the first place.
As you can see, the reason I am going to Raleigh on May 1 is quite simple. Per the evaluation rubric developed by the state, it is required of me. We are all professionals; why would we want to be labeled “proficient” when we are “distinguished?”
Shauna Jendro, Chantilly Monstessori
Why am I attending the rally on May 1? I am standing up for myself!
I have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in education, with 12 years of teaching experience. I am a great teacher. My paycheck should reflect that. Teachers’ salaries aren’t taken seriously. Most teachers are women, historically viewed as primary caregivers whose incomes are viewed as secondary. It’s 2019. It’s time teachers are recognized as professionals with an income to match. My income is the ONLY income supporting my household. I live paycheck-to-paycheck, am forced to have a roommate and a second job to make ends meet. I am in my late 30’s. It’s an embarrassment.
I am standing up for my own son, my students, and all children!
We want children to grow up to be intellectual, empathetic problem solvers. We need to re-evaluate how money and resources are being distributed. Education has turned into a money-making machine with a few corporations making a huge profit. Yet, our children lack resources they need to support their social, emotional, developmental, and academic needs. We need to focus efforts on keeping class sizes small, eliminating over-testing and budgeting for more school nurses, counselors and psychologists to serve our children. Children are expected to perform higher and higher on biased assessments, but lack resources to overcome poverty, grief, disabilities, social pressures and mental illness. Children spend less time with families in order to measure “success” on a standardized test. It is impossible to measure a child’s true abilities this way.
I am standing up for NC!
I moved here in 2007 specifically to be a teacher. I even received a signing bonus. NC was ranked 26th in the nation. Over a decade, NC has taken a sharp decrease and is ranked 39th in the nation according to the National Education Association’s most recent report. North Carolina is below the national average in terms of per pupil spending. We do not want a teacher shortage. We want professionals who stay and become master teachers. We need to pay these professionals enough to afford to live here and support their families. We need to pay teacher assistants at least $15 an hour. We need to support classrooms with the things that matter most instead of burning people out and spending millions on new curriculum roll-outs every three years. We need to trust teachers to be the ones who are making professional decisions in their classroom.
I am standing up for our Nation!
It’s time our nation spends money on our future, which means spending money on public education. We spend more money on incarceration. We need to realize this creates the cycle instead of fixing it. We need to reflect on why our nation is not ranked one of the top education systems in the world and take action to change this. Teachers are sick of people who have never stepped foot in a classroom, who value financial and numerical outcomes over true educational growth, telling us how to do our professional work. It’s time that education is reformed to meet the needs of our future in the US–instead of benefiting a few.
Gillian Baxter, Park Rd Montessori
I’m going because all OUR kids deserve better and I want to look our state reps in the eye and ask them what they’re going to DO. We are privileged at Park Road, but more kids deserve schools like ours.
Lori Carter, Philip O. Berry Academy
While I am in agreement with all five of the reasons we are #AllOutMay1, there are two in particular for which I am truly advocating. The first is improved access to mental health care on all school campuses. The ratios of school psychologists, social workers, and guidance counselors to students make it impossible to meet the many needs our teens present with today. In the past nine years, I have noticed a marked increase in depression and anxiety among our student (and educator!) population. This includes experiences with two of my own children. So yes, to me, this is personal.
The second reason I am advocating for change is to support all hourly workers in our schools. Our hourly workers (cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, etc.) are the backbone of our schools. To think that these individuals work as hard as they do, but do not make a wage sufficient to cover the cost of rent in Charlotte and around NC is shameful.
Go to https://www.ncleg.gov/Members/MemberList/H to locate the number for your local legislator and voice your opinion of the teachers’ march. Please mention the proposed law to change criteria for cancelling classes and granting personal leave, and how it will impact teachers’ ability to lobby for changes that impact students and the overall community.