House Majority Leader Thom Tillis and Rep. G.L. Pridgen are fine examples of the new guard in Raleigh. Both are Republican members of the General Assembly and both voted against education time and again, although neither would admit it. To hear them speak, the public would think that the General Assembly actually increased spending on education.
If you heard them speak on recent attempts to silence the voice of educators, you might think that they were actually looking out for an educator’s right to work. These claims are as bogus as the idea that a half-cent sales tax continuation would not have helped the budget.
For this purposes of this op-ed though, I’ll focus on education.
This is a topic that many of those on the N.C. House Education committee don’t know anything about. However, Rep. Pridgen stated that he does want to learn. He is a businessman. He is well-versed in business, but not so much in how children are educated. He does not seem to understand why fewer teachers in a school is a bad thing or why the Public Schools of Robeson County had to let so many teachers assistants go home this year.
The answer is simple: PSRC had a budget cut that left them hemorrhaging. Many cuts had already been made to the various programs. Human Resources accounts for 82 percent of the budget. Our board members were left with little recourse.
Educators have been speaking out against these cuts since the start of this economic crisis. Educators from NCAE — the North Carolina Association of Educators — went on a frenzy as they saw teacher assistants laid off, teachers sent packing, and student services slashed. Additionally, salaries have been frozen for four years for all public school employees.
I am one of those educators who proudly marched in Raleigh in support of K-12 public education.
Our voices irritate many of those in the General Assembly whose symbol is the elephant. They decided to try to silence us. In a sneaky, perhaps discriminatory move, they voted in the wee hours of the morning to end payroll deduction for our membership dues, making it harder to collect payment. Then, they go further by trying to disguise it as getting rid of unions.
Without collective bargaining, we have no union benefits, but what we do have is a voice and a loud one at that. This recent attempt to silence NCAE has been challenged in court and will ultimately make us stronger and more determined. We fight for our students, our members, and the preservation of public education on a daily basis. We will continue to do so. Everyone knows that what is done in the dark, will be brought to light. It’s only a matter of time. We will stand strong for education even in the bleakest of times.
I urge the county voters to remember the deceit of the GOP as they sought to use the cover of darkness to silence their constituents. If they would do it to those of us who shape the future by teaching children, they will do it to anyone else who opposes them publicly.
None of us will be silenced at the polls as long as we vote.
— Jamie Burney is president of the Robeson Association of Educators.