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Charlotte-Meck teachers mobilize to protest budget

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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators plans to take a busload of protestors to Raleigh for the final Moral Monday protest next week, saying efforts to work with legislators failed.

The teachers from Charlotte will join hundreds of others mobilized by the N.C. Association of Educators, protesting a budget that provides no raises for teachers, eliminates tenure, cuts classroom jobs and shifts $10 million to income-based vouchers for private schools. NCAE President Rodney Ellis said he’d gotten 1,800 confirmations less than 24 hours after putting out a call to action Wednesday afternoon.

Ellis said his group stayed out of the mass protests during most of the summer, believing members could work with legislators to get a more teacher-friendly budget. But the compromise released Sunday and approved Wednesday contained “draconian cuts to public education,” he said Thursday.

“I think that at the last minute things changed, so we have to change our strategy,” Ellis said.

Ellis and a handful of other NCAE officials participated in civil disobedience at this week’s Moral Monday protest, joining hundreds of others who have been arrested on misdemeanor trespassing charges for refusing to leave the legislative building when it closed. Monday’s 70 arrests brought the total to 925.

The protests, which started in May and are spearheaded by the N.C. NAACP, have focused what leaders describe as social justice issues, including voter restrictions, cuts to unemployment compensation and cuts to public education.

Charles Smith, president of CMAE, said he knows of “a handful” of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers who have taken part in civil disobedience at earlier rallies. Both Smith and Ellis, who works for Winston Salem-Forsyth schools, said they don’t believe teachers will lose their jobs over the arrests. Smith said CMS teachers are required to report any arrest to their supervisors, and so far none has been threatened with dismissal or discipline.

They do not expect arrests at next week’s protest, when the legislative session will likely be finished.

Smith said he’s getting strong interest in a 55-seat chartered bus going from Charlotte.

“We worked (with legislators) in good faith, but it’s time for us to get vocal,” he said.

Judy Kidd, president of the Charlotte-based Classroom Teachers Association, said Thursday she’s dismayed by the budget as well.

“Welcome to the bottom,” Kidd said. “Essentially what they’ve done is hang a sign on the state border that says, ‘We are not teacher-friendly.’ ”

But Kidd said her group will continue lobbying legislators rather than attending a mass protest.

“Talking to them one-on-one is better than standing on the square in Raleigh screaming,” she said. “Screaming never got anybody anywhere.”

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter @anndosshelms
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