Education

Educators not fazed by state superintendent’s remarks about the May 1 protest march

Educators held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the May 1 protest march.

A Wake County educator said Wednesday that teachers aren’t disappointed State Superintendent Mark Johnson isn’t supporting next week’s protest march.

Johnson, a Republican who didn’t participate in the teacher’s march last year, has asked the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) to choose a day when students aren’t in school to stage this year’s march.

Responding to a reporter’s question, Kristin Beller, president of the Wake County Association of Educators, said Johnson has fallen short of expectations since his election to the post in 2016.

“I would not call it disappointment because there has never been a moment where he has demonstrated support for public schools in the way that we expect,” Beller said.

Beller made her comments Wednesday during a press conference to discuss the May 1 protest march and the five demands teachers have presented state lawmakers.

She added: “We [educators] have high expectations for the leader of our public school system in North Carolina. His [Johnson’s] behavior has not demonstrated that he is able to meet those high expectations of advocating, passing policy or supporting educators in the way that our students and educators deserve.”

Beller also noted that Johnson spoke at a “School Choice Rally” on a school day in January 2018.

She wondered why Johnson didn’t ask the N.C. Association of Public Charter Schools (NCAPCS) to hold its rally on a non-school day.

“There’s a question in the air with educators, how the state superintendent [Johnson] was able to attend a school choice rally that happened on a school day, and then call this [May 1] rally an inappropriate gesture … because it’s on a school day.”

A spokesman for Johnson said in an email response that no students missed school due to the school choice rally but offered no further explanation.

Rhonda Dillingham, executive director of NCAPCS, said student who attended the school choice rally were invited to perform “just like an invitation to perform/participate in any event, such as a parade, special concert, etc.”

In asking teachers to pick another day to protest, Johnson reasoned that students have already missed too much school this year due to Hurricane Florence and other weather-related issues.

This year, the NCAE has locked in on these five demands:

  • 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.

Beller said the dozens of education bills in the House and Senate this session indicate that last year’s rally made a positive impact.

“All of our issues have bills that have been filed in the House and Senate with the exception of reinstating retiree health benefits, that’s just a bill in the House,” Beller said.

Kristy Moore, vice president of the NCAE, said long-term state budget cuts make it more difficult for teachers to do their jobs.

“Instead of investing in public education, lawmakers would rather give huge cut tax breaks to millionaires and large corporations,” Moore said.

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