Durham County Schools set to close on May 16 due to teacher protests

Many Wake County teachers plan to miss school for protests

Harrison Rose, Copy Editor

The Durham Board of Education voted 6-1 to close schools May 16 to allow teachers to lobby for better pay, after more than 1,000 educators called the day off for the protests, with more teacher absences expected to come. This news arrives during a period of teacher walkouts that have swept the nation, with moderate amounts of success in obtaining more appropriate funding for teachers and classrooms.

The rally, March for Students and Rally for Respect, planned for May 16, is going to take place in downtown Raleigh and is expected to have thousands of teacher participants from all over the state. The participants will march from the North Carolina Association of Educators building to the North Carolina Legislative Building, where teachers will meet with legislators as they open the 2018 session to push issues such as teacher pay, student resources, school safety and getting North Carolina schools to meet the national average in per-pupil spending.

“It’s important for educators to stand up and fight for our students, our schools, and the future of our profession,” said Rachel Surles, English teacher at Athens Drive.

News of a North Carolina teacher walkout comes amid other state walkouts concerning teacher raises and classroom spending. A six day walkout in Arizona finally ended May 3 after Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill to increase teacher pay 20% by 2020. This bill also includes more funding for better support staff, and adequate funding for better technology and repairs for crumbling buildings and infrastructure.

North Carolina currently ranks 40th out of 50 states in public education in recent findings by Education Week, a news organization that covers K-12 education. North Carolina’s score was barely a “C” at 70.6/100, which is 3.9 points below the national average of 74.5/100. The state of education has been on the decline since 2011, when the ranking was 19 out of 40. Such a stark change in ranking reflects on other state’s willingness to allocate proper funding and improvement to the education system.

Since Durham Public schools announced that they will be closing, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board has announced that they will also be looking into closing schools on the day of the protest amid many teacher call-outs. Wake County schools have also notified students and staff that they will be closed on the walkout date, and some students at Athens hope that their teachers will participate.

“I’m so glad that we live in a country where people get to advocate for themselves in this way. The students and teachers of North Carolina deserve much better than we currently have and we are capable of so much more. I hope the lobbying leads to much needed change,” said Mollie Clary, senior.

It should be noted that with it being an election year in North Carolina, these protests and outrage over the current state of public schools could have an impact on the outcome of elections.

“It’s important for us to remember that this is merely a first step,” said Surles. “We cannot make this just a day of standing up to those wielding the power to make or break our schools; we have to keep the energy going and take this outrage to the polls.”