Last night’s Moral Monday demonstrations took an unexpected turn when Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) decided to sit down with teachers, who were staked out in front of his office late last night, to debate some of the education policies he has put forward.
WUNC Education Reporter Dave Dewitt has a great story about how the night went off script and the debate that took place:
But here’s where script took an unexpected turn. Just a few seconds later, Senator Berger came around the corner, pulled some couches into a circle, and offered to have a discussion.
And that’s exactly what they did. For more than an hour and a half, Berger and the protesters discussed education policy and the challenges facing teachers. There were some heated moments, and some passionate disagreements.
For the most part, all parties were respectful. The protestors whittled their list to three items they wanted addressed: they wanted tenure back; they wanted teacher assistants restored; and they wanted Berger to hold a series of public meetings on education. At the end, Berger committed to nothing more than another conversation the next day to consider further meetings.
And instead of being led out in handcuffs, the 15 protesters walked out the front of the building, nodding to Capitol Police officers, to meet their supporters.
Proffitt spoke first: “So we sat down and we had a good conversation, which to my understanding this is the first time this has happened in the last couple of years. So I think this represents a win for the movement because I think we put enough pressure on them that they realized they had to have a conversation.”
When he was done, Bryan Proffitt stepped behind the crowd and tried to gather himself. Someone handed him a bottle of water and the sweater he thought he had lost, and he finally took a deep breath.
He admitted the night had not gone like he thought it would.
“Talk is cheap,” he said.” There needs to be a real opening. But if there’s an opening, we’ll take it. But if it means the threat of arrest, if that means risking arrest again, and putting negative pressure on them again, then we’ll be back.”