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Setting the Record Straight

The release of a joint statement by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and Senator Neal Hunt about the Nov. 4 walk-in event at Lacy Elementary School in Wake County triggered a response from NCAE member Nanette Rhyne, who e-mailed Neal to clarify some of the “misconceptions” the two shared about the event. Rhyne is a kindergarten teacher at Youngsville Elementary School in Wake County and this is what she expressed in her reply to Neal, who represents her district.

“I am writing to you as a teacher in a NC public school. However, I do not teach at the school referenced in your e-mail. I am also a member of NCAE. As a constituent in your district, I would like to clarify some misconceptions.

The NCAE is encouraging ‘walk-ins,’ either before or after school, not during instructional time for students. The term ‘walk-ins’ came as a result of another group trying to organize a ‘walk-out’ on November 4. NCAE advised its members that participation in this ‘walk-out’ could lead to disciplinary consequences and possible dismissal due to breach of contract. This, NCAE sought to find a way for educators, parents, and concerned citizens to work together in an effort to improve the realities of public education (48th in per-pupil spending and 46th in teacher salaries). This is where the term ‘walk-in’ emerged, so that teachers would stay in the classroom and invite community members, elected officials, parents, and concerned citizens to become involved in the successes of public education that happen on a daily basis in North Carolina.

As a result, these school visits would initiate conversations on how to revitalize public education, after the counter-productive effects of the 2013 budget. The NCAE is not a union, as it does not have bargaining rights. North Carolina is a non-union state. Parent volunteers in NC public schools must go through a background check and be approved by the school system before interacting with students in the classroom or on field trips.

The NCAE has never encouraged any educators to turn their backs on their classrooms or their students at any time. Rather, it is the NC General Assembly that has turned its back on NC children and their teachers. The catalyst for the anticipated public education walk-ins (the 2013 NC budget) is not for any political gain. Rather, the forums are an attempt to prevent further harm and loss to NC’s children and teachers. You claim that you have not cut spending to education. However, the prices of paper and many other supplies have more than doubled, and you have not increased the budget to allow for these costs.

You have lifted the class size cap, which lead to 26 students being in my cramped kindergarten classroom. It was so overcrowded that I tripped over a child and broke the toes on my right foot. Fortunately, I fell into the puppet center and onto a child. You expect me to do more assessments with more students each school year, yet you have offered me less and less pay each school year since 2008. You backed out on the ABC bonuses that I should have earned since 2008. You have voted to for higher insurance premiums and higher deductibles for the State Health Plan, further reducing my salary. You have voted to eliminate my career status, which I earned and is part of my contract. You thing that my employment rights can be bought for $500 a year over four years, and that is only if the NC General Assembly can find the money in the budget to pay this ‘incentive.’ My employment rights and my voice are invaluable. I vote in elections. I was the 13th voter in my precinct on October 8, 2013.

In response to your quote about the duty of schools, it is the duty of the NC General Assembly to provide each and every child in the state with a free public education that is equitable across both the rural and urban areas of the state. In 2013, the NC General Assembly did not meet these obligations. The current actions of the NC General Assembly have prompted the need for the ‘walk-ins’ that you oppose.

I would encourage you to attend one at a school in our legislative district. When you attend, please listen to what constituents are saying. The Wake County School Bond Referendum was just passed by voters, in contrast to your opposition. The everyday citizens and contributors to your community want to have quality public education for their children. Please take time to listen to your constituents and act accordingly when you cast your votes as a representative of the NC General Assembly. Public education is a bi-partisan effort that will mold the future of the state of North Carolina for years to come.

You are welcome to visit my classroom at any time. Thank you for your service as a Senator.”