We know teachers plan to turn out in full force next Wednesday for the second annual march on the NC General Assembly, but today Jen Bourne, a parent and educator in Mecklenburg County, makes the case for why all parents should support the May 1st demonstration.
Here’s Bourne’s Top 10 list:
1. We need to know that when our children go to school, there are qualified staff to care for them on the not-so-good days. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “More than two thirds of [American] children reported at least 1 traumatic event by age 16.” We definitely need to meet or exceed national recommendations for “psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals” requested by our educators.
2. Most employers do not provide paid time off to care for sick children. As long as that is the case, we have to have a nurse in every school.
3. If you have ever tried to survive on $15/hour or less, with young children and all the bills, you know darn well that it is next to impossible; especially in a city that drives everywhere and in a home where that is the only income. If you have never been in that situation, you will just have to take our word for it.
4. In order to learn, humans require focus and interest. A child who is anxious about the impact of medical bills on their housing situation should not be expected to focus or care about the commutative property.
5. A child that is sick or hurting, but has no access to medical care should not be expected to focus or care about her EOG scores.
6. A child who has one or more caregivers with untreated mental illness should not be expected to focus or care or know how to respond appropriately in moments of extreme social or emotional stress at school.
7. Teachers are not greedy. If they were, they would have asked for the 9% recommended pay increase proposed by Governor Cooper. Instead, they created a win-win scenario for all state employees who do the most important work in North Carolina: public school employees.
8. If we really want to be the best state for teaching and learning by 2030, we need to attract smart, ambitious, passionate educators, and we want them to build a beautiful life here. The best candidates will never agree to move from a state with a strong union, to a non-union state that lacks compensation for advanced degrees and retiree health benefits.
9. The budget is OUR money. If we want to invest more in our children, then our legislative initiatives should reflect that desire. This means expansion of funding for public schools and less for private interest. We have already tried diverting public money to privatizing enterprises such as charter schools and voucher programs. Let’s try raising the bar to the pre-recession level, adjusted for inflation, and see what happens.
10. This is only the beginning of the work ahead of us in North Carolina. We have our beloved mountains, we have beautiful Piedmont springtimes, we have our majestic coastline. We have a booming economy. We still do not have PreK for all children. We still do not have enough to send all of the 4th graders in our state to visit Raleigh. We still have empty playgrounds during the school day. We still have schools that are racially segregated.
If the parents show up, it will send a strong message of support. It will demonstrate gratitude for all of our past, present, and future teachers. It will change the lives of all children for the better, and it will mean that we have the collective power to determine as a people, what it looks like to truly love and to believe in our public schools. This is only the beginning.
Jen Bourne has three daughters and works hard to advocate not only for them, but for all children. Her family believes that children deserve the best kind of education: one that honors their whole personhood and one that attends to their academic, social, emotional, and physical needs.