NC Teacher: State Lawmakers Want In-Person Schools but Few Have Kids in Classrooms

(Image via AP Photo/John Locher)

By rodneypierce

March 1, 2021

This NC teacher says lawmakers are grabbing power that belongs to local communities, with their vote tonight on a school reopening bill.

One of my passions as a NC social studies teacher is educating students about the power of elected officials and how their decisions impact my students and their families. 

Now, a group of elected officials within our state gave them a great lesson with the recent passage by the state legislature of Senate Bill 37, which wanted to require in-person instruction at the state’s public schools. 

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill on Friday, and it is scheduled for an override vote at the state legislature Monday evening. 

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The legislation requires school districts to open for those students with special needs under Plan A (full-time, face to face instruction with minimal social distancing) and for all others under Plan A or Plan B (a hybrid mix of remote learning and in-person instruction with six feet of social distancing). While no district can offer only remote learning, students and their families will still have that option for virtual learning if they so choose. 

My fellow educators and I are well aware of how SB 37 will affect the communities we serve along with our own families. Namely, it will strip local school districts of local autonomy by forcing them to provide in-person learning options they may not be comfortable providing given the COVID numbers in their respective communities. The increased exposure leaves the potential for increased transmission of the virus in communities. 

What we ponder is how it affects the families of those who actually craft and pass the law. 

I could be wrong, so perhaps a survey of the General Assembly should be conducted, but I presume most of its members are middle-aged or older men who are either retired or self-employed. The children of these members, by and large, are adults who no longer attend public schools.

In other words, the children of most NC General Assembly members are not affected by this bill. That’s convenient. 

And did I mention that SB 37 only applies to traditional public schools and not charters? That begs the question, “Are NC charters public schools, or aren’t they?” If they aren’t, lawmakers should legislate that way and refrain from saying they are public schools. 

If they are, why isn’t SB 37 applicable to them? Could it be that state legislature members who are the parents of school-age children have them enrolled in charters or private schools that aren’t affected by this bill and other education legislation that they pass? Do these charter and private school parents include others who craft and influence state education policy?

While I believe these non-traditional institutions can play reasonable roles in education, I also believe it is hypocrisy for a state legislator, particularly during a pandemic, to pass education laws that impact the families of others, but not their own family.

Again, SB 37 is a great lesson for my students. As a middle school teacher, I often remind them that in a few short years, they’ll be eligible to vote for these state legislators. 

As their decisions affect you, make sure your decisions affect them.


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