Teachers walk-in rather than walk-out to express concerns over legislature

Teachers and students protest issues such as low teacher salaries, increasing class sizes and the end of tenure

Kaanchee Gandhi, Editor-in-Chief

The Athens Drive halls were a deeper shade of red Monday Nov. 4,and it was not because of NC State’s homecoming game the day before. Teachers and students donned their red attire to show their discontent with the General Assembly’s hand in public school systems. Participants rallied for issues like teacher raises, job security, class-size limits and more.

The North Carolina Association of Educators encouraged teachers to participate in the walk-in rather than the alternative walk-out. Support for the proposed walk-out began to dwindle among teachers after taking into account the people it would actually affect.

“I felt walking out would be punishing the wrong people – my kids – who didn’t have anything to do with the legislation. Plus, walking out wouldn’t be effective unless everyone did,” said Shavonne Hairston, social studies teacher.

Teachers, students and parents marched from Middle Creek High School to West Lake Middle School before class began Nov. 4 holding posters expressing their resentment towards currently implemented laws. After school, meetings were held at various locations for protesters to meet over issues and discuss plans of action. The event was designed around the school day so as to not disrupt learning time. However, many teachers at Athens made their disgruntlement obvious through their color choice for the day. Charley Norkus, Gradpoint Coordinator, believes N.C. public schools are in serious trouble.

“Governor McCrory and leaders are ruining the public education system in North Carolina. It’s sad because we used to be such a highly productive school and now we’ve become laughing stocks. I know this firsthand because I used to sell education software for SAS back in the early 2000s. North Carolina had a stellar rep for innovation, creativity, and leadership back then. Public school teachers, until recently, could be very proud to be from North Carolina. That started to change with the Republican dominated General Assembly who don’t care about public schools (their kids must all be enrolled in private ones.) I can’t understand why someone with children would be a part of what’s been going on recently,” said Norkus.

This will be the fourth time in five years teachers have gone without a raise. In addition, tenure (permanent teaching positions) is coming to an end. Extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees will also soon be phased out. However, teacher salaries are not the only issues concerned about.

“It goes much deeper than teacher pay. There is a lack of respect for the profession as a whole. Most of the population does not understand what all goes into being a teacher. Teaching used to be the most respected profession around, but now we are underappreciated by society and the government. A lot of teachers are considering leaving the profession because of this lack of respect,” said Hairston.

Protesters are rallying for an increase in per public expenditure. This, they believe, would solve not only problems concerning teacher pay, but also the number of teacher assistants, class-size and student vouchers. Many believe the root of the problem lies with the current General Assembly.

“The most significant step we can take is to vote out the current legislature. If we do not vote them out, then that means North Carolina supports the rape of the public school system. I think the general population who voted are as surprised as most people at the steps the republican dominated General Assembly has taken to dismantle the public schools system of North Carolina,” said Norkus. “I am still proud to be a part of the North Carolina public school system. I love my job and what I do here. I’m part of a group of people dedicated to helping public school students excel. It can get better for all of us with a General Assembly more in tune with the needs of the people.”