Open Letter to the Registered Voter Who Believes in Public Schools

by Stu Egan

The current General Assembly and governor are very scared of public school teachers and those who support them. Without their support in this next election cycle, many candidates for office simply cannot win. That’s why the governor and NCGA have touted so many “band-aid” style electioneering schemes to make them appear pro-public education.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896. Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression. From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded.

And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.

Make no mistake. The GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at New York State and the Opt-Out Movement against standardized testing. Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”

North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth noting. The list below is not by any means complete, but it paints a clear picture.

Removal of due-process rights – This keeps teachers from being able to advocate for schools.
Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed – Removed a means for teachers to invest in their profession.
Standard 6 – Teacher evaluation protocols are arbitrary at best
Push for Merit Pay – Never has worked in education. Besides, all teachers assume duties outside of teaching.
“Average” Raises – Average and Actual do not mean the same thing.
Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups – specifically NCAE.
Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – And many of the tests are made and graded by for-profit entities.
Less Money Spent per Pupil – NC still has not approached pre-recession levels.
Remove Caps on Class Sizes – Teachers are teaching more students and sometimes more class sections.
Jeb Bush School Grading System – This actually only shows how poverty affects public education.
Cutting Teacher Assistants – Hurts elementary kids the most.
Opportunity Grants – A Voucher scheme that profits private and religious schools.
Unregulated growth of charter schools – No empirical data shows any improvement in student achievement with charter schools.
Virtual Schools – These are hemorrhaging in enrollment.
Achievement School Districts – Again, an idea that profits a few and has no successful track record.
Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – We are lacking in numbers to help supply the next generation of teachers for a growing state.
Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Another way to discourage bright students from becoming teachers.

So what can be done? Actually lots. And it all starts in the ballot boxes.

Remember, North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in over 65. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system. And they are strong in numbers. Add to that their supporters. The numbers get bigger.

If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly and governor have done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: “North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight.” If our communities are to recover and thrive, then this trend must stop.

Do your homework and see which candidates truly support our public schools.

Educate yourself, then please vote.

Stu Egan

English Teacher in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system


Editor’s Note: The Forsyth County Association of Educators and North Carolina Association of Educators have endorsed the following local candidates for their support of public schools:

Senate District 32: Paul Lowe, Jr.

House District 71: Evelyn Terry

House District 74: Marilynn Baker

Forsyth County Board of Commissioners: Selester Stewart, Dave Plyler, Richard Linville

The FCAE and NCAE are also in support of the WSFCS Education Bond on the ballot, and are encouraging a YES vote on the bonds.

 These candidates & issues were vetted by a panel of current teachers, teacher’s assistants, retired teachers and other education personnel.

To read more About the Bonds, including a full breakdown of the projected expenditures and costs to the public, click HERE.

REMINDER TO PARENTS: WSFCS will NOT be open to students on Election Day, November 8th – it is a teacher workday. For information on how you can cast your vote in early voting, click HERE.