The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday June 26th

Plan for NC teacher walkout stalls

North Carolina teachers upset with low pay and recent cuts to public education were planning to walk out of the classroom Nov. 4 to send a message to the N.C. General Assembly — but an actual walkout is looking unlikely.

Due to fears that participating in the event, called the N.C. Teacher Walkout, would cost them their jobs, many teachers have decided to opt out.

“A lot of teachers are apprehensive,” said Josh Hartman, one of the original organizers of the walkout, who recently quit his job as a technology teacher in Wake County after six years.

Lawyers at the North Carolina Association of Educators warned event organizers that teachers who call in sick as a form of protest could be fired, Hartman said. And Gov. Pat McCrory has condemned the walkout.

“This teacher strike doesn’t get us to a solution and puts the education of our children in jeopardy,” said McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch in an email.

Organizers are asking teachers to call in sick or arrange for a substitute rather than leave students unattended — but the act could still be considered unlawful protest because North Carolina is a right-to-work state.

Though Thursday was the last day of school for Hartman, he said he will continue speaking out for higher teacher pay.

“I’ve always had to have a second job,” he said. “Now it’s gotten to the point where teaching is my extra income.”

The walkout might not occur, but education advocacy groups across the state are taking less drastic measures to challenge new public education policies.

The N.C. Association of Educators never endorsed the walkout. Instead, the association is organizing a “walk-in” during American Education Week, which begins Nov. 18, association President Rodney Ellis said.

“We want to invite our decision-makers and policymakers to visit schools … just see for themselves, firsthand, the impact that their decisions have had,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said the association is planning legal action against several recent legislative decisions, including a law that uses state money to fund vouchers for private school tuition.

He added that the group is speaking out against the removal of higher salaries for teachers with master’s degrees.

“Who doesn’t want a teacher with master’s degree certification in the classroom?” Ellis said. “That’s just ridiculous.”

Another advocacy effort involves Red4EdNC, a campaign started by teacher Angie Scioli, which encourages teachers to wear red on Wednesdays in protest of state education policies.

Scioli said teachers statewide are frustrated about stagnant salaries and growing class sizes.

“We feel like both parties are in a position to pass better laws,” said Scioli, who has taught in Wake County for 20 years. “We should all be mad.”

The state of North Carolina has slipped to 46th nationally in teacher salaries, paying teachers an average salary of nearly $10,000 less than the national average.

Chuck Hennessee, a middle school teacher in Chapel Hill, said many of his colleagues left their jobs because their pay does not cover living expenses.

“We have become the laughingstock of the nation,” he said. “I will continue to (teach) as long as I can, but even I am considering other options.”

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