State Superintendent Mark Johnson is again urging educators to choose a non-school day to protest in Raleigh.
In an email message to state educators Friday, Johnson said a march could be organized “one day in June” after the traditional school year has ended.
“As you consider the different ways you can influence your state government, I ask that as an alternative to Wednesday, May 1, you consider taking action on a day when schools are not in session,” Johnson said.
Johnson also suggested educators use their upcoming spring breaks to meet with him and lawmakers in lieu of the protest march and rally planned for May 1.
“I plan to be in Raleigh for most of the days during the upcoming spring breaks in order to meet with you and legislators,” Johnson said.
Last year, more than 19,000 educators and supporters came to Raleigh to march for better pay and increased school funding.
Johnson said North Carolina’s school children have missed a lot of days of school already due to Hurricane Florence and other weather-related events.
“Weather hit us hard this year, and I do not want to encourage any more students missing any more school days,” Johnson said. “It’s not good for students’ academic and nutritional needs, of for our bus drivers and some other non-certified staff, who may miss scheduled work hours and, as a result pay.”
Johnson’s message was immediately criticized by some educators Friday on the North Carolina Teachers United Facebook Page.
Christy Cor, a teacher in Buncombe County, wrote: “On a positive note … he [Johnson] got the email out to every teacher across the state that there was a rally on May 1 via school email!”
Breanna Stamey, a teacher in Caldwell County, wrote on the North Carolina Teacher United Facebook site: “I was in the middle of reading it [the text message], and my computer shut down for a reboot. Even my pc was tired of hearing his lies.”
As of Friday, two school districts – Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Lexington City Schools – have decided to close May 1 so teachers can attend the rally.
Johnson, a Republican elected in 2016, said last month that he can’t support a protest that “forces schools to close.”
“The legislature will be in session in Raleigh for at least another three months, a time period that spans dozens of days students are not scheduled to be in school, including spring break and summer break,” Johnson said.
Responding to those remarks, Mark Jewell, president of the N. C. Association of Educators (NCAE), said the sooner educators make their demands known, the better.
“Superintendent Johnson underestimates the critical needs that face our public schools today. Time is of the essence so that we do not lose a generation of students with underfunded, starving, under-resourced public schools. The state legislature sets the schedule for the budget process, and our rally is meant to impact the budget discussions as early as possible.”
The NCAE demands includes these five items this year:
- Additional funding to adequately staff schools with psychologists, social worker, nurses and librarians.
- Restoration of extra pay for advanced degrees.
- Increasing the minimum wage for all school personnel to $15 an hour and a 5 percent cost of living raise for school employees and retirees.
- Expansion of Medicaid to improve the health of students and their families.
- Restoration of retiree health benefits for teachers hired after 2021. .