While political pundits continue to debate the success of Monday’s teacher walk-in, the Wilmington Star News says it’s time for Senate President Phil Berger to stop berating educators and actually listen to them. Here’s their Wednesday editorial:
‘North Carolina doesn’t have a teachers union, and Phil Berger knows it. The word “union” implies that teachers have the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike for better working conditions – neither is permitted under state law. Yet the Senate president pro tem insisted on deriding Monday’s event in support of public education as union activity.
Berger, R-Rockingham, and his like-minded political colleagues apparently believe that the only “right” teachers have is the right to sit quietly and take it when the Honorables and the governor attempt to “improve” public education by adopting policies that punish and demoralize the professionals who are in the best position to put those improvements into practice.
Berger went after the N.C. Association of Educators, which he believes was behind the push for a “walk-in” staged at many schools across the state, including in the Cape Fear region. There were numerous variations on the theme, from an organized gathering around the flagpole to a simple show of support by dressing in red.
He and like-minded lawmakers chose to assail the event as “bully tactics.” But it is teachers who have felt bullied of late, what with a new law that takes away tenure by 2018, arbitrarily decides that only 25 percent of teachers deserve a $500 raise – and only then if they give up tenure early – and removes the financial incentive for teachers to pursue advanced degrees.
New Hanover County school board member Tammy Covil expressed concern that the event could be interpreted as political. Most teachers didn’t see it that way. Regardless of whether it could be construed as political in some way, it would be counterproductive to attempt to punish teachers who participated.
This was a show of frustration, but also a tangible way to show how many people are working with our children every day – despite the challenges.
The reality in most places was different from what Berger and his allies described. While a social media campaign for a walkout was initially planned, it turned into a “walk-in” – teachers, other school employees, parents, volunteers and even some students across the state staged assorted variations on the theme.
At schools in the Cape Fear region, the event consisted mainly of wardrobe statements, as teachers and administrators wore red in a show of solidarity. A few schools had short gatherings before school, so as not to take away from instructional time. Some participants took the opportunity to state why they went into teaching. Most considered it an upbeat and positive event.
For his part, Gov. Pat McCrory was more conciliatory, noting that teachers have some legitimate concerns and complaints. (However, he did sign the legislation that prompted Monday’s walk-in.) He also announced formation of a teacher advisory council, with four members from the Cape Fear region, which was to meet Tuesday.
If McCrory and lawmakers actually listen, they may hear some very good suggestions. Teachers are on the front lines every day, dealing with problems that many politicians can’t even begin to imagine. The good ones – and they represent more than 25 percent of the workforce – know where problems exist, and they often have some creative answers for addressing them.
Imagine! An attempt to enlist teachers in the ongoing effort to improve public education in North Carolina. It boggles the mind.’