Educators and school staff from across North Carolina will gather at a planned protest in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
The N.C. Association of Educators’ Rally for Public Education participants will ask legislators for increased funding for the hiring of additional support staff, the reinstatement of retirement health benefits and advanced degree compensation and an increase in the minimum wage for hourly employees.
A high number of leave requests for the day led some local school systems, including Vance and Franklin County, to declare May 1 a holiday for students and an optional workday for teachers.
Terri Hedrick, public information officer for Vance County Schools, told WIZS that of the school system’s 900 employees, 130 requested leave to attend the rally. While rally participants account for only 14% of overall staff, Hedrick said, “Those asking off are in classrooms and are vital to student instruction.”
In a recent press release, Vance County Schools stated that Superintendent Anthony Jackson recommended the school day change and the Vance County Board of Education approved the holiday in an effort to support public school educators.
The missed instruction day for students will not be made up.
The VCS press release explained, “While it is always important for students to be in school and learning, school system officials believe that our extended school day times at all grade levels this school year will be sufficient for student instruction even with the missed day on May 1. The school day was extended for the 2018-2019 school year by about 15 minutes at the elementary, middle and high school levels.”
Hedrick stated that the majority of employees at the system office will be at work tomorrow – including Dr. Jackson – and do not currently have plans to attend the “Day of Action” rally.
In a message sent to NC public schools earlier this month, State Superintendent Mark Johnson encouraged educators to find alternative ways of voicing their concerns.
His message read, in part:
“I encourage discussions about different ideas and opinions. Your voice is crucial. I want you to know why I cannot agree with one group’s proposal to encourage schools to close on May 1.
Weather hit us hard this year, and I do not want to encourage any more students missing any more school days. It’s not good for students’ academic and nutritional needs, or for our bus drivers and some other non-certified staff, who may miss scheduled work hours and, as a result, pay.”
As an alternative, Johnson suggested that educators take action on a day when schools were not in session, such as the week of spring break. Spring break for many NC schools concluded last week.
Vance County Board of Education member Ruth Hartness expressed her support for local educators participating in the rally.
“They have an issue and they have to voice it in some way,” said Hartness. “I agree with them. I see no harm in it and it may do some good. Hopefully, the legislature will listen to these folks and something will come through that will be to their liking.”
In the meantime, Hartness said she believes the school system does a good job of educating the community with its current resources.
“The answer to many of the issues is more money from the legislature for schools. We are doing the best we can with the money that we have been given.”
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