The teacher advocacy organization blamed GOP lawmakers in Raleigh and DC for federal figures showing more than 27,000 education jobs lost since the pandemic.
North Carolina has lost more than 27,000 education jobs since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And members of North Carolina’s largest teacher advocacy group, the NC Association of Educators (NCAE), say the state’s Republican legislative leadership in Raleigh and D.C. should bear the brunt of the responsibility.
“From the White House to the State House, Republicans have abandoned our students and educators,” NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly, a music teacher in Cumberland County, said in a statement. “Not a single Republican in our legislature or Congressional delegation — led by Sen. Thom Tillis — has come up with a plan to keep our students safe or get our economy back on track. These job losses reflect failed leadership at its worst.”
The federal numbers counted 27,700 jobs lost in K-12, college and community college in NC since February.
Those figures fit into a bleak economic picture for the state, which has shed about 300,000 jobs since February. As the conservative pundit John Hood wrote this month, those figures compare poorly to other states in the region, although NC has also fared measurably better in containing the deadliest impacts of the coronavirus pandemic than several neighbors.
State lawmakers agreed to hold school districts harmless for plunging enrollment during the pandemic, meaning they would not cut enrollment-related funding. Still, the NCAE and educators across the state have offered blistering criticism of state and federal lawmakers, particularly Republican ones, because they say the state has failed to keep pace with K-12 needs in the classroom over the last decade and during the pandemic. They also point to massive infrastructure needs that they say may only exacerbate the spread of the virus in aging school buildings. At the same time, lawmakers have also been criticized for boosting school choice initiatives such as charter schools and private school vouchers.
The NCAE did not go into specifics, but coronavirus relief talks have broken down in DC in recent weeks, with GOP leadership opposing another round of funding before the election. A March COVID package offered billions to the states to address the pandemic-related needs for K-12, but there seems little hope for another package in the coming days.
The group said NC was already struggling to keep veteran teachers, adding that GOP legislators have approved massive tax cuts in the last decade that reduced state revenues and left school systems reeling.
“Educators are doing everything they can to ensure that their students are supported through this pandemic and that parents have a partner in overcoming the challenges we face,” Walker Kelly said in a statement. “Yet, Thom Tillis has been missing in action. He turned his back on educators and working families.”
Officials with Tillis’ campaign, as well as the offices of NC Senate President Phil Berger and NC House Speaker Tim Moore, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
But the state Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Dan Blue, said Republicans have “gutted” NC schools in recent years.
“We’ve lost teacher assistants, critical support staff like school psychologists and nurses — and this was before the pandemic hit North Carolina,” Blue told Cardinal & Pine. “COVID-19 has magnified the long-standing problems created under Republican leadership. We need to take swift action to mitigate the losses in our classrooms.”
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