Teacher to GOP lawmakers: Spare us the sanctimonious talk about the pandemic and public education

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Two powerful–and outgoing–Republican state legislators slammed the work North Carolina educators are doing to keep learning going during a pandemic at a Tuesday meeting of the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee.

Representative Craig Horn, chair of the House K-12 Education Committee and the Education Appropriations Committee, referred to the pandemic as “a disaster for education.” Senator Rick Horner, chair of the Senate Education Committee and member of the Senate Education Appropriations Committee, called 2020-21 “a wasted year.”

The comments are not sitting well with many North Carolina educators who are working tirelessly to provide students with an engaging learning experience during the most challenging time of their careers.

Michael Landers, a teacher in Cabarrus County, said, “Let’s temper the rhetoric and start something helpful for students and teachers. No one asked to be in this situation and no one chooses to educate in this way; but to have leaders, community members, and parents keep pushing this notion – it continues to undercut the valiant efforts of thousands of teachers each and every day.”

Sen. Rick Horner, R-Johnson, Nash, Wilson

N.C. Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union

Craig Horn and Rick Horner are both on their way out after years of public service. Horn departs after a failed run for state superintendent, and Horner did not seek reelection after two terms in the Senate.

Both men served in the General Assembly during the Republican supermajority years which were, without question, a disaster for education. Both of them voted time and again for corporate and individual tax cuts which deprived public schools of billions of dollars in sorely-needed revenue. Both of them voted to eliminate retiree health benefits for all state employees hired beginning next month, making it harder to recruit teachers to North Carolina. Both of them have dutifully followed party leadership’s approach of thumbing noses at the Leandro ruling and recent WestEd report which outlined the many ways state legislators have failed to provide the education that is our students’ constitutional right.

Their concern about the state of public education in North Carolina has to be viewed through that lens.

In the case of Craig Horn, who has served a full decade in the House, it’s particularly ironic to hear criticism of online education efforts.

Last year, rather than using his leadership position to call on the General Assembly to commit resources to removing

barriers to in-person Pre-K attendance, Horn championed the shockingly bad idea of having 4 year-old children of poverty attend virtual Pre-K. Keep in mind, that was before anyone had even heard of COVID-19.

Nobody asked for a pandemic to disrupt our normal education routines. Nobody is arguing that our students are better served through virtual learning. But the problem is the drumbeat about learning loss and wasted years is being used in an attempt to sway public opinion toward relaxing our guard against COVID at exactly the wrong time–when viral spread is frighteningly high and a vaccine is on the horizon.

North Carolina’s thousands of educators are doing the best they can to teach their students and stay alive right now. They deserve our respect and support.

To Representative Horn and Senator Horner, I say on behalf of those educators:

Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

Justin Parmenter is an educator and public school advocate who lives in Charlotte. He blogs regularly at Notes from The Chalkboard.

 

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