In the last few weeks, the powerful organizing of Durham, NC educators has resulted in over 600 DPS employees putting in personal days to go to Raleigh on May 16. We’re headed to the Capitol, on the General Assembly’s opening day, with educators, parents, students, and supporters from all over the state in response to a call from the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). The Durham local, DAE, has led the charge here, and I’ve found myself in probably over 100 conversations about this effort in the last three weeks. Repeatedly, people have asked me: what is it that we’re asking for? What are we demanding?
There’s two answers.
First, I ask people to be patient. There are so many different people in motion around the state, who are all moving at their own paces, and developing their own ideas. Building a movement as broad as uniting all public school students, parents, educators, and supporters in the state takes some time. We’re going to Raleigh on May 16th with some asks. Trust.
But here’s the real answer: we want everything. EVERYTHING.
North Carolina’s educators, you see, believe in this radical idea that our all of our kids, every last one, should have:
- Nutritious food, clean air, and poison-free water
- Homes and neighborhoods filled with love and respite
- Physical and emotional health and the resources and knowledge they need to care for their bodies
- Emotional and physical safety
- Boundless opportunities to laugh and learn and grow with their elders and their peers
- Challenges that push them to test their limits while offering safety and grace when they inevitably fail along the way
- Meaningful work and joyful play
- Computers, books, clothes, balls, dolls…everything
The leadership of the state’s General Assembly over the last half decade or more, disagrees. They believe that wealthy people need more tax breaks. They don’t. Our kids, however, do need all of things listed above and more.
It’s a pretty easy choice.
And for educators, this choice is personal. We take it personally that roughly 1 in 5 young people in our state live in poverty. We take it personally that the state is spending less money on education than it was in the middle of the recession and our students are suffering. And we take it personally that they’ve taken the hardest job on the planet and made it absolutely unsustainable for the majority of those of us who love the profession, and our students, so deeply. We take that personally.
After a new law passed last year, teachers entering the profession in North Carolina after 2020 will not have health care in their retirement. And under the current salary schedule, they would hit a ceiling at 25 years. That means someone could commit their entire adulthood to the nurturing of our state’s children and never make more than they did at the age of 47 and retire without health insurance. It’s cruel. We take that personally.
On May 16, thousands of people will march on Raleigh in one of the biggest displays of power this state has seen in years. After all, public schools are the #1 employer in 85 of the state’s 100 counties. There’s a whole lot more of us than them. Following the lead of our colleagues in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado, we’ll be saying that we’ve had enough, we demand respect. We’ll be stepping up to the bullies. We’ll be from the mountains and the coast. The piedmont and the foothills. We’ll be from all over the world. We’ll have signs that say all kinds of witty and beautiful things. We’ll have provocative and fun chants. We’ll agree on most things, and disagree on some.
But the one thing that we’ll all agree with is this: our students deserve everything they need to thrive, and that’s more important than a small number of wealthy people getting to keep more of their money.
Will members of the General Assembly agree?
Put in your personal day NOW and we’ll see you in Raleigh in a few weeks.