2018 was one hell of a year for public schools.
Last spring, a wave of empowerment swept over the country and saw teachers in several states stand up and say they’d had enough of the erosion of public education.
Here in North Carolina, more than 20,000 educators took to the streets in Raleigh on May 16 in an unprecedented show of discontent, filling the legislative building with a sea of red and letting lawmakers know we intended to send those with a history of voting against the best interests of our teachers and children into retirement.
In November we did just that, toppling supermajorities in both the House and Senate and putting an end to a stranglehold on power that had been responsible for so much terrible education policy since 2010. Governor Cooper now has the power to veto legislation that is bad for our schools with an important new budget on the horizon this summer.
So what’s next for North Carolina teachers and supporters of public education who want to keep their sleeves rolled up? We still have a long way to go. The impacts of those years of bad policy are still being seen and felt every day in our schoolhouses in so many ways: rampant standardized testing of children who should be forming a lifelong love of learning, crumbling buildings that have seen too much neglect while tax breaks for the rich have been prioritized, staffing of support services such as school counselors and psychologists that lags way behind recommended levels, per-pupil funding and teacher compensation far below national averages, the list goes on and on.
But as we saw in 2018, we are powerful when we are organized and intentional.
Across the country, the movement for stronger support of public schools continues to gather steam. Just this week, teachers in the second biggest school district in the country won smaller class sizes, more support staff, more green spaces for school campuses, and a 6% raise in salary. They did so by being organized and intentional.
North Carolina education advocates, including representatives of NCAE, Organize2020, NCTU, and Red4EdNC are gathering for regional meetings to talk about how we can continue to bring much-needed change to the public education landscape in 2019. Meetings have already taken place in Raleigh and Asheville, and Charlotte and Greenville events will be held on Saturday, February 2. Event organizers will lead sessions on topics such as effective social media use, tips for interacting with legislators, and general organizing strategies.
Charlotte-area advocates, if you want to get involved, please join us at Walter G Byers Elementary School (1415 Hamilton St., Charlotte, 28206) from 10 AM to 4 PM on February 2. Meetings are open to teachers, parents, students, and any other interested parties. Lunch and childcare will be provided.
You can RSVP for the event here. Please help spread the word so we can turn folks out. Hope to see you there!