With two weeks to go until another large rally in Raleigh for public schools, some critics of the plan are urging organizers to move the event while some school district leaders are still uncertain whether kids will have class that day.
The North Carolina Association of Educators is encouraging teachers to request to use a personal day on May 1, similar to what they did last May when thousands of educators and their supporters marched in Raleigh.
“Everyone there was wanting to make a statement to say, listen, the direction that North Carolina public schools are heading in is the wrong direction. And, we’ve got to change this backward trend toward the past,” said Mark Jewell, president of the NCAE.
North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) says he wants the NCAE to move the event to a day when kids are already out of school.
“They could do it on another day. They could do it after school lets out in June. We’ll still be here,” said Berger. “The bottom line is that this rally is not about education. This rally is not about improving the outcomes for our students. This rally really is not about teachers. This rally is about electing Democrats.”
Jewell acknowledged one of the main goals of last year’s event was to drive voter turnout in the November election.
Democrats gained enough seats in the legislature to break the Republicans’ veto-proof supermajority.
“So, we did go to the ballot box and we made sure regardless of political party, we wanted to vote for pro-public education candidates. And, that’s what we did,” said Jewell. “You hear Republicans saying ‘I want to restore master’s degree pay.’ They’ve actually written legislation to do that. You hear Republicans saying ‘let’s talk to Democrats about $15 minimum wage for our lowest-paid workers’.”
The following local school systems have canceled classes on May 1: Wake County, Durham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Orange County, Wilson County.
In Johnston County, 277 teachers have requested to use a personal day on May 1, according to school district spokesperson Crystal Roberts.
“While the school system has several hundred substitute teachers, these individuals are not required to accept substitute opportunities on any given day. The school system will continue to monitor the number of leave requests and the number of substitutes who have agreed to substitute on May 1st in order to make appropriate decisions,” wrote Roberts in an email.
In Cumberland County, 122 teachers have requested the day off, according to the school system’s public information office. The county has a substitute teacher pool of about 1,000 people.
However, it’s not clear how many of those people will be available on May 1.
In Craven and Union counties, school leaders are urging teachers who want to participate in the rally to send a smaller delegation to Raleigh so that schools can remain open. Craven County students missed several days in the fall because of Hurricane Florence.
Parents are preparing to make arrangements for their children on May 1. School districts are also sending notices to families about where meals will be available for children on that day.
“I don’t look at it as an inconvenience. And, I’m willing to reach out to other parents to help them out if they needed that help,” said Melissa Muller, of Cary.