Standing in Solidarity for Teachers

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Today marks the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week, May 5-9. Undoubtedly teachers deserve appreciation, especially as the debate about teacher salaries continues. Local freelance writer and mom Holly Becker, who is also a member of the Davidson Elementary Advocacy Committee, which exists to support teachers and students by lobbying for issues, such as less testing, developmentally appropriate standards and higher teacher salaries, is today’s Daily Post guest blogger. She shares her thoughts as a concerned parent on how to support public school teachers in North Carolina.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Many of us will march our children off to school with flowers, baked goods and homemade cards to show our token of appreciation. This year, however, our teachers need more. North Carolina has forced teachers to work for less and with less for far too long. Teachers have endured increasing class sizes, decreasing resources and losing teacher assistants. According to the National Education Association, North Carolina ranks 46th in average teacher salary, 48th in starting teacher salary and 51st in teacher salary growth. The average teacher salary in North Carolina is lower than our neighboring states of South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. Our state is driving away talented teachers to states with higher teacher salaries. Others are exiting the teaching profession altogether.

Now there’s Read to Achieve, a law the North Carolina legislature wrote that impacts every third grader in the state and imposes penalties for third graders who do not pass the reading End of Grade (EOG) tests, including summer school and the threat of not being promoted to fourth grade. As a result, many teachers feel like they teach to tests. Students are reduced to numbers. As a mom of second-grade twins and a son who will start kindergarten in the fall, I’m outraged because I know so much is at stake. Many North Carolina parents are fed up, too. But are we frustrated enough to do more than complain about it?

Parents are busy with the day-to-day challenges of work and family, but we cannot change the course for public schools in North Carolina without parents taking action. We have to carve out time to write letters to our county commissioners and state legislators on behalf of our children and teachers. Visit MeckEd or DES Advocacy to find links with contact information for our representatives. Our legislators need to hear personal stories about how Read to Achieve and excessive testing are draining both our educators’ passion for teaching and our children’s love of learning. They need to know the financial hardships our teachers face.

Parents at several schools in our area have started advocacy groups to help raise awareness about issues impacting public schools at the county and state level. On May 13, Davidson Elementary School in Davidson and Torrence Creek Elementary School in Huntersville are holding Advocacy Day Rallies in support of their teachers. Wearing red t-shirts, parents and students will hold signs to show their support for teacher pay raises, and they will cheer and clap for teachers as they arrive for work.

The rallies will be held just hours before the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board votes on the budget for the upcoming school year and the day before the N.C. General Assembly reconvenes for a short spring session.

The best teacher appreciation gift we can give our public school teachers is to stand in solidarity with them. We must urge county and state representatives to increase teacher salaries to be regionally competitive and allow our educators to restore classrooms to an environment where the seeds of lifelong learning take root, not testing anxiety. Who will save our public schools in North Carolina? It’s, you, parents. Now, let’s get to work.

– Holly Becker, mom and member of Davidson Elementary Advocacy Committee