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Will N.C. teachers walk out on Monday? They already are

By Kevin Strawn
Special to the Observer

Because one teacher decides to work Monday, it does not make the decision of another teacher to “walk out” a wrong or bad decision.

Most teachers will be reluctant to walk-out, sick-out, or otherwise not show up for work on Monday because of the responsibility they feel toward their students. The curriculum is packed. There are no days to spare. And others are making demands on instructional time with mandatory administration of the PSAT and ACT tests.

The teachers who walk out Monday are sending a warning. It is better that they issue the warning by walking out for one day than to walk out and not come back.

Make no mistake. The walk-out has already begun. Take for example the high school math teacher who spent two years in Tennessee as a Teach for America teacher before coming home to North Carolina. After one year in North Carolina she was offered a $7,000 a year raise to teach at the private school she attended as a child. Her compensation included the tuition to pursue her master’s degree. She walked out in June of 2013 and didn’t come back.

Last month, the chairman of the English department at a Charlotte high school left in the middle of the term. He is pursuing a career that will pay more money and provide more time to spend with his family. He walked out and is not coming back.

These are examples of teachers who cared deeply about their students. They also have a healthy dose of self-respect. They didn’t walk away for just one day, but for the rest of their careers. What will it take to bring them back?

The teachers who planned the Monday walk out and those who are considering participating are not slackers, malcontents or outside agitators. They are committed, hard-working, dedicated teachers – dedicated to public education and to a quality education for all children.

Heed this warning now

The teachers who are considering walking out are sending a warning. Unless the issues of shrinking teachers’ salaries, absurd testing demands, due process that comes with career status, and respect for professional teachers are addressed, the walk out will continue and public education in North Carolina will suffer. There will be an August of anxiety when superintendents across the state realize that they cannot find enough teachers to fill their growing number of vacant positions. There will not be any quick fixes that the N.C. legislature can approve even if they are called back for a special session.

The warning has been issued. Let the real work of solving our education problems begin. Leave off the double speak about $5,000 raises that are really only $2,000 raises for some 25 percent of the teaching workforce. Don’t waste time using false accusations about how impossible it is to fire a bad teacher. Forget legislation that attacks teacher organizations like the N.C. Association of Educators for political reasons. We must all be on the side of public education, and we must address the issues.

On Monday, it doesn’t matter if there are 10,000 teachers who walk out or if there is only one. Let us heed the warning. The walk-out has already begun.

Kevin Strawn teaches math at East Mecklenburg High School.

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