More than 100 community members gathered at E.K. Powe Elementary on Monday as part of a statewide “walk-in” to ask state leaders to increase funding for North Carolina’s public schools.
“Parents are together right now because we want the best for our kids,” said Nicholas Graber-Grace, a parent and teacher at Hillside High School. “Politicians are underfunding our children.”
Board of Education Chairwoman Heidi Carter echoed Graber-Grace’s sentiments.
“These are the most trying times for public schools I have faced since joining the board,” Carter said. “Teachers are feeling like they aren’t treated as professionals.”
North Carolina currently spends $8,757 per student, which ranks 48th out of 50 states. New York, by contrast, spends $18,616 per student. Parents and teachers called it a disgrace. North Carolina ranks 46th for teacher’s pay.
Treva Fitts, a K-5 science teacher for 29 years, feels disrespected.
“We work in spite of the lack of funds,” she said. Most teachers pay out of pocket for the extra school supplies their classes need.
“Whatever the perception is, how do you survive when the pay is frozen?” she asked. “It trickles down. We’re not here for the money … we are passionate about our jobs.”
Among those attending the rally at E.K. Powe, one of several in Durham, were City Councilman Steve Schewel, state Sen. Mike Woodard, and state Reps. Paul Luebke and Mickey Michaux.
“These people perform valuable services to our students and train our future leaders, and we should not short change them,” Michaux said. “The voucher system, the charter system – all of these are an effort to weaken our public schools.
“Whatever affects these kids affects us also,” he said.
Luebke agreed, saying one goal of the walk-ins is to “shine a light on the damage the governor and General Assembly has done on public education.”
“Once the public understands what is going on we will start doing the necessary steps it takes to make a change,” Luebke said.
Students and teachers also spoke at Monday’s rally. One fifth grader said his baby sister won’t get the education she needs if the governor keeps decreasing public school funding.