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Groups reject walk-out, urge 'walk-in' to support teachers

With N.C. teachers talking about a Nov. 4 walkout, Iredell-Statesville Schools and a Wake teachers group are urging community members to instead walk into public schools that day to show support for teachers.

The walkout, which is being promoted on social media by teachers who aren’t using real names, is a response to low teacher pay and changes that some say undermine support for public education. “We are engaging the people of NC, unifying our voice and banding together to initiate change. We want more respect for teachers,” says the walkout Facebook page, where almost 600 people have clicked “coming.”

ISS Superintendent Brady Johnson said Wednesday he understands the frustration but does not support the walkout strategy. North Carolina is a right-to-work state, which makes it illegal to strike or engage in a “sick-out.”

“We certainly respect what those other teachers are trying to do and the message they’re trying to convey,” Johnson said. “But there’s a better way to do it. Why should our teachers have to stand alone and fight for better working conditions and additional resources for their students? We should all stand united behind our schools and our teachers.”

The walk-in appears to be building statewide momentum. ISS spokeswoman Dawn Creason said she’s gotten inquiries from other school districts. Rodney Ellis, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, said the group planned to invite elected officials, business leaders and others into schools the week of Nov. 18, but some local branches are moving the date to Nov. 4 to counteract the walkout.

Neither the NCAE nor the Charlotte-based Classroom Teachers Association endorses the walkout.

“Starting a community dialogue with parents on Nov. 4 is better than antagonizing them and overburdening administrations by walking out,” said Larry Nilles, president of the Wake NCAE.

ISS is inviting people to visit and volunteer Nov. 4 to learn more about the work teachers do. Johnson said he hopes to spark discussion of state-mandated reforms, such as letter grades issued to public schools based on student test scores and vouchers to help pay tuition at private schools.

“Is an A-F grading system really the best way to help parents evaluate schools? Research from other states who have tried it would say ‘no,’” Johnson said in a news release. “People also need to understand that public tax dollars are funding a private school voucher program that the majority of North Carolinians oppose. When you combine that with the cuts to personnel, it’s easy to see why our educators are frustrated. We are becoming a state that no longer values public education.”

The district asks people interested in the Walk-In to call the public information office at 704-924-2032 or check the ISS website, www.iss.k12.nc.us, for information about signing up to visit. There will also be details coming about a “virtual Walk-In” option.

T. Keung Hui of the News & Observer contributed.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms
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