Teacher walk-ins

by YES! Staff

They wanted to walk out, but in the end they just couldn’t do it.

Teachers in North Carolina aren’t allowed to walk out of their classrooms — or form unions, or hold strikes, or participate in any organized activity that applies pressure from the labor end of the equation. Our state is one of just five in the nation that prohibits teachers’ unions. And of those five states — the others are South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Georgia — we have the lowest average teacher salaries, according to 2012 statistics by the National Education Alliance, No. 46, with an average compensation of about $46,000.

There is not necessarily a correlation between a teachers’ union and top salaries: Georgia is at No. 22 on the list, with average salaries at about $53,000 per year and Virginia ranks 30 th at just above $47,000.

And teachers’ unions are not an empirical good. The film Waiting for Superman shed light on some failing school districts where teachers’ unions have contributed to the decline.


Our state’s teachers took a hit when a salary freeze and an end to the tenure system and bonuses for advanced degrees. That’s what started talk of a walkout, which of course would be illegal. But our state’s teachers — creative, resourceful and motivated — turned this insulting attack on their

profession into a learning opportunity for students, their parents and everyone else who has a stake in our state’s education system — which is to say all of us, even if those of us who never had children in the NC public school system, or didn’t attend ourselves. We all benefit when everybody in the state knows how to read, compute basic equations, read maps, understand history and use a pencil. Try to imagine a world without public schools for a moment and feel the shudder run up your spine.

When people complain about the cost of educating our people, they complain about the price of civilization.

On Monday, teachers across the state wore red as a sign of solidarity to their profession, and encouraged everyone — parents, elected officials, taxpaying citizens — to come see the things that are happening in our public schools.

As talk of the “walk-in” percolated last week, the office of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) thundered disapproval in press releases, including this joint statement with Sen. Neal Hunt (R-Wake): “Schools have a duty to protect our children, not serve as marching grounds for political protests orchestrated by unions.”

Berger and his Republican colleagues worried that students would be unattended while teachers briefly expressed their views at the beginning of the school day. But from all available reporting from North Carolina Public Radio, teachers in Guilford, Mecklenburg, Wake Durham and Buncombe counties were able to exercise their First Amendment rights without calamity.