The NC Association of Educators on Monday used Root Elementary School in Raleigh as a back drop to kick off a “Truth Tour” to expose what it contends are GOP “distortions and misrepresentations about funding for public schools.
Similar events are planned for Asheville, Greenville and Wilmington.
NCAE President Mark Jewell said the “Truth Tour” is designed to reveal the truth about what’s happened to public education under the Republican-led General Assembly.
“The truth is ugly, unsettling and completely at odds with statements made by lawmakers who claim to care about our children,” Jewell said. “Talk is cheap but the majority of the North Carolina General Assembly is even cheaper, at least when it comes to funding our schools.”
Jewell said lawmakers have mostly ignored the five demands thousands of educators made during their May 1 walkout.
“We were clear, we were loud and we were ignored,” Jewell said.
Educators’ demands included additional money to provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national professional-to-student standards.
They also asked for a $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5 percent raise for all non-certified staff, teachers, administrators, and a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for retirees; expansion of Medicaid; reinstatement of state retiree health benefits and restoration of advanced degree compensation.
Jewell said the State Senate’s budget proposal only provides 1 percent of the funding needed to hire enough professional support staff to meet national standards.
Educators sought a 5 percent pay increase for non-certified staff such as bus drivers and cafeterias workers. The senate budget provides a 1 percent pay increase and the House a .5 percent increase.
And while the House budget does restore pay for advanced degrees, the Senate’s does not. And neither the House nor the Senate budgets restores retiree health benefits.
“The House and the Senate budgets gives hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts to big corporations and the wealthy,” Jewell said. “Meanwhile, funding for classroom materials is still less than half of what it was 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation.”
Jewell was joined by Kristin Beller, president of the Wake NCAE, who said lawmakers have failed to make public education a top priority.
“It’s a shame that every year, parents, students and educators hold fundraisers trying to raise money for textbooks, school supplies, field trips and even educator positions when the General Assembly has withheld nearly $4 billion in corporate tax cuts and tens of millions in public dollars that go to private school vouchers, which will eventually total$144 million that could have been invested into our public school system,” Beller said.
She said the state can properly fund public schools.
“This austerity budgeting that continues to be proposed by the privatizers in our General Assembly is a false notion,” Beller said. “It’s a choice.”
Beller said those choices have left local school districts scrambling to pay the bills.
“It means each year our school board and school staff are forced to beg and plead with the county to supplement the state’s lack of funding,” Beller said. “We shouldn’t have to beg, we shouldn’t have to plead and really, we shouldn’t even have to fund raise. The state should be raising enough revenue to fund the operating costs of our schools. The can easily do this but they’ve chosen not to.”