Lawmakers in Raleigh neglect teachers and parents
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
I started my teaching career seven years ago to help shape the minds of young children and prepare them for their future. Over the years, I have watched countless young men and women chase their dreams to every corner of the world. I have personally witnessed the impact a quality education can have on a child’s mind, life and potential.
But over the last decade, I have also watched the amount of funding our state invests in public schools dwindle. I have watched parents struggle to be able to send their children to school with the tools necessary for them to succeed. And like thousands of other teachers in North Carolina, I too have struggled to provide the materials needed to educate young minds when the state refuses to provide those supplies. The question that we must all answer is, are we OK with this?
Are we OK with letting teachers, who are tasked with helping future generations of North Carolinians learn and grow, struggle to make ends meet? Are we OK with the fact that, adjusted for inflation, the lawmakers in Raleigh have cut classroom supply funding per student in half over the last 10 years? Are we OK with the fact that, even though our state’s economy has largely recovered from the recession that began in 2008, lawmakers still lack the desire and will to properly fund our children’s education?
It is frustrating that the lawmakers in Raleigh seem to think that handing out billions in tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires is more important than providing adequate funding for the tools needed to make sure our children can be successful and competitive in future global markets. In fact, the General Assembly now wants to give even more tax cuts to the top 1 percent through a constitutional amendment on the ballot in the upcoming midterm elections in November.
The most frustrating part of this whole equation is that lawmakers know who picks up the check they refuse to write. They know that teachers and parents will have to spend their personal money to make up for the General Assembly’s failure to fully fund our schools, but they do not seem to care. They seem willing to ignore everyone who does not fit their agendas — but I am here to tell them that teachers and parents are hurting. Our pockets are hurting from having to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to provide classroom supplies for children in “free” public school. Our hearts are hurting to be reminded every year that our so-called leaders simply do not care about us.
Before I moved to my current job as an eighth-grade English teacher, I was at a Title 1 middle school. At this school, most parents often were in dire financial situations, so most of the burden of providing basic classroom supplies fell on the teachers. On an average year, I spent more than $200 just to provide basic necessities such as pencils, notebook paper, bandaids, tissues, cabinets, drawers, books, pens, expo markers and whiteboards. This was money that I knew I wouldn't get back from either the school or PTA, and was often money I could barely afford to spend — but it was a sacrifice I was forced to make either way.
Lawmakers’ lack of concern for students isn’t just “politics as usual,” but indicates a severe failure of our political and social system. Our children deserve better than weak excuses from lawmakers who seem to have forgotten how they got where they are. Our children deserve leaders who care about their future, and are willing to put their necks on the line to secure that future — but unfortunately that is not what they have. No, our children have leaders who care more about making political donors happy than securing the future of our state and country — and quite frankly, we’ve had enough.
Alison Killy is a teacher with Pitt County Schools. Progress North Carolina distributed her column.