Teachers question numbers behind political claims
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The Teacher Truth Tour came to Greensboro on Friday. About two dozen teachers and education advocates assembled in front of the Guilford County Courthouse, holding signs and discussing some of their issues with the current direction of North Carolina’s General Assembly.
“The purpose of the tour is to get people engaged and to hold politicians accountable,” said executive director of Raleigh-based Progress North Carolina Gerrick Brenner.
The group says that the administration’s claims to have proposed “the biggest teacher raise in history,” are not only lies, but also ones that are laced with other unseen consequences.
For Brenner and other protestors, the main point of contention was Governor Pat McCrory’s claims that the proposed teacher raises would not come at the expense of cutting teaching assistant positions.
According to Brenner, 125 teaching assistant positions have been cut in Forsyth County, 90 positions in Mecklenberg County, and 20 in Lee County.
“The number of students we have per instructor is important,” said Brenner. “These aren’t babysitters; they’re certified educators.”
Brenner cited a statistic from the NC State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction that reports the state has seen 30,000 more students enrolled in state public schools since Governor McCrory took office, while 3,000 teaching assistant positions have been cut.
Todd Warren is an elementary school Spanish teacher in Guilford County with 11 years of experience, and feels legislators are overly focused on testing.
“A pay increase would be nice, but I will not take one at the expense of a teaching assistant,” said Warren.
Former Guilford County Board of Education member and County Commissioner Dot Kearns said that teachers don’t want to be unfair or aggressive, but that this was a watershed moment for the future of education in our state.
“I don’t want to be a naysayer or a blaming type of person,” said Kearns. “But I think it’s time for teachers to say what they need to say.”
The Teacher Truth Tour stresses the need for teachers, teaching assistants and textbooks in the classroom. Teachers in attendance shared stories about not having enough books for all the students in their class so that students could not take the texts home with them. Other teachers echoed the need for additional classroom supplies, and many said that they have regularly purchased necessary teaching materials themselves.
Brenner added that these cuts to education were occurring while the state continued to create more wealth for businesses.
“The elephant in the room is the reckless tax cuts,” said Brenner. “We’re on the road to death by a thousand tax cuts.”
What was very clear was that all of the teachers felt genuine concern for the children that they teach. They reported observing an increase in children struggling with poverty.
“Our children – the ones we see everyday – they are really hurting right now,” said Warren.
Several attendees expressed concern over the growing popularity for vouchers and privately owned charter schools “We need to look very carefully at what is being paid to for-profit and charter schools,” said Kearns.
“It’s part of the general dismantling of public education,” said Warren. “We’re putting public dollars in private hands.”
After Friday’s event, the Teacher Truth Tour will return to Raleigh to assess their next steps. The tour had al- ready visited Asheville and Sanford. !