NC Senate leader Phil Berger in a 2016 file photo. A NC teacher says Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have overseen a punishing decade for public education. She's calling on North Carolinians to vote as if their schools are at stake. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Phil Berger
NC Senate leader Phil Berger in a 2016 file photo. A NC teacher says Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have overseen a punishing decade for public education. She's calling on North Carolinians to vote as if their schools are at stake. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

It’s been a punishing decade for North Carolina educators like myself. Here’s why I’m voting to remove lawmakers who played a part in dismantling schools.

As North Carolinians head to the polls, parents and educators like me hope they understand that the future of public education in our state is at stake.  

Will voters protect public education as a common good or will they trade it in as a commodity?

Make no mistake, many hands are reaching for the education budget cookie jar and if you listen close enough, they say the quiet part out loud by handing over campaign cash to candidates like superintendent candidate Catherine Truitt or Dan Forest. 

The path to privatization, in which we view schools as a commodity instead of a public good, has gained traction in North Carolina under leaders like this, especially over the last ten years with increased support from the Republican-controlled General Assembly to expand private school vouchers and charter schools.  To pave the way for these policies, they’ve fostered the false narrative that our public schools are broken while simultaneously passing laws to weaken them.

Public education is one of the smartest investments a community can make but GOP leaders are breaking public schools so you’ll buy into their so-called solutions that siphon money away from public schools and into the hands of private investors.

Beware those presuming to care more about students than the educators living the mission each day.

Be especially leery when lawmakers set out to vilify and silence educators as they unconstitutionally tried to eliminate due process rights for all teachers and paycheck deductions for membership dues to the North Carolina Association of Educators. 

Targeting NCAE—of which I’m a member—to undermine its pro-public education message is as much a part of the strategy as the series of laws that weaken policy and financial support for our schools. 

They would restore more than 7,000 teaching assistants to support the development of literacy skills in our youngest students, and both restore and fund class size caps for older students.

They’d retain highly qualified teachers by reinstating extra pay for those earning a Master’s degree, and fix the broken teacher pipeline by motivating high-achieving high schoolers to join the profession through the Teaching Fellows program.

Republicans like Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore resist their responsibility to uphold the state constitution and fulfill the Leandro court case’s mandate to provide a “sound, basic education” to North Carolina’s students. If they weren’t, they would be implementing recommendations from a court-ordered consultant’s report for meeting our constitutional obligations.  

Weeks after the school year began, the General Assembly could have supported public school reopening efforts by funding requirements put forth for a safe reopening by the state Department of Health and Human Services, but instead they chose to expand private school vouchers and virtual charter schools. 

In NC, 43% of children live in poor or low-income households.  If school privatizers are sincerely concerned about students, there is plenty for them to do . But if it doesn’t involve profit opportunities, perhaps they are not as interested. 

They can advocate for workers to have a living wage and health insurance.  They can support affordable housing projects in their communities.  They can push for restoration of a progressive tax system instead of paying the same tax rate as low-income folks.

Instead they’re advocating for charter schools, private school vouchers, standardized tests that measure poverty better than achievement, and pre-packaged curriculum.

If they cared about public school students, GOP lawmakers would see them as an investment. Instead, they’re flirting with private investors.

When you head to the polls vote for candidates who support public school students.  They’re worth the investment.