The North Carolina Associate of Educators (NCAE), a state affiliate of the national teacher’s union (NEA), is surveying its membership of school employees to determine how many days they are willing to miss work (strike) to pressure the legislature to increase teacher pay and increase Medicaid funding. The survey is being administered by the NCAE’s 2020 Racial and Social Justice Caucus.
The efforts to promote a strike of North Carolina teachers and school employees is more evidence that the state’s public education system has become a key player in political gamesmanship- a sad reflection on how little value certain education professionals and political leaders put on education. It’s more about promoting a political agenda based on money and influence and less about education.
Mark Jewell, NCAE president, seeking to justify the survey, stated, “Educators are understandably frustrated by the decade of disrespect and marginalization they have received from lawmakers, and we will consider all that is necessary to make a positive impact for public schools and all of those who serve in them.”
Mr. Jewell’s argument fails to acknowledge that in just the past five years, N.C. teachers have received a combined cumulative 23.6 per cent pay raise. This year alone the legislature attempted to provide a 3.9 per cent raise over a two-year period, but was stymied by Governor Cooper’s veto. The Governor wanted to expand Medicaid and add a five per cent raise for teachers without a serious consideration of the impact on the taxpayers.
The NCAE president further misses the mark because the survey promotes the idea of breaking a state law that prohibits strikes by teachers and public employees. And should teachers and school employees initiate a strike it will result in charges of a Class One misdemeanor and potential job loss.
Why then would an educational and political leader want to force the hand of the legislature knowing that pay raises are waiting should the Governor rescind his veto, and in the process jeopardize the job opportunities for the very people the organization is seeking to support? The answer is simple- it’s about political change in legislative leadership, not about students, teachers and the education system.
Mr. Jewell and the NCAE are doing the bidding of the Governor and Democrat leaders in trying to find martyrs who can be used for political messages. The effort has nothing to do with education - it’s purely politics, but unfortunately for the NCAE it will fail.
The facts don’t support the arguments but additionally, the number of union members no long support the threat. According to a recent NC Civitas report, membership in the NCAE declined 6 per cent the previous two years to just 28,725 members. This is part of a growing nationwide trend of declining teacher union membership across the country.
There is another political calculus that needs to be considered and that is the growing frustration that parents and taxpayers are experiencing with the education environment. Across the state educational alternatives are being considered by parents and children, such as public charter schools, private schools and homeschooling. Parents and communities are quickly assessing the value of the public education system and are finding very viable and successful alternatives.
If Mr. Jewell and the NCAE prefer political action over education as the current survey indicates then public schools will suffer as parents pursue other options.