Elissa Yount, a long-serving Vance County educator and former Henderson City Council member, was on Tuesday’s Town Talk to discuss, among other issues, today’s teachers’ rally in downtown Raleigh.
Thousands of teachers from across the state marched through the Capitol this afternoon to lobby lawmakers for increased funding for education.
Many school districts, including Vance, Granville, Franklin and Warren counties, were closed today due to the number of staff participating in the rally. All four counties declared the day an optional workday for teachers.
In response to the controversy surrounding today’s rally, Yount believes that teachers need their voices heard and this is the right time to do it. “Teachers never want to cause turbulence or upset,” said Yount. “This rally is really not about politics, but policies that run our schools.”
Yount provided dismaying statistics about NC Public Schools including the state’s designation as 39th in the nation in per-pupil spending and an estimated $8 billion need for school repair and construction.
“People say it’s awful to miss a day of instruction. I say it’s far more awful to spend an entire school year with few supplies and materials and in bad buildings,” Yount said. “One day compared to that does not a good argument make.”
Yount believes additional funding for education is especially essential for Vance County where over half of the children live in poverty. “We are a Tier One county. I’d like to see a nurse and a social worker in every school and additional guidance counselors,” said Yount. “If a Tier One county doesn’t need those things, I’m not sure who does.”
Yount explained that investing in education today pays large dividends in the future, “When our children are properly cared for and educated, it’s good for all of us now and way down the road.”
In addition to increased funding for materials and supplies, teachers are also rallying for better salaries.
“Our teachers are constantly asked to do more with less and are making nine percent less than they made 10 years ago when you adjust for inflation,” said Yount.
Yount cited recent benefit cuts to state employees including the loss of guaranteed health insurance for retirees who worked 20+ years, loss of longevity pay and loss of additional pay for receiving a master’s degree.
“I know from personal experience that inspiration, motivation and the calling to teach will not feed a teacher’s family or educate their own children. We [teachers] work for low pay for the promise of future benefits and those benefits have been removed.”
Yount informed the listening audience that raising taxes should not be necessary to increase educational spending due to “a huge surplus in the State.”
When asked how educators got to the point that a rally seemed necessary to lobby for increased educational spending, Yount replied, “Some people just don’t believe in public education. Some think private schools, charter schools and vouchers are the way to go. Some in the legislature are really moved by private education and want to make it a business rather than a service to the people.”
To sum up her thoughts on the matter, Yount explained, “If teachers were confident that there was respect for their profession and that it was a priority to lawmakers, then there would be no need to have a rally.”
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