It’s an important time for public education in North Carolina, and local education advocacy group MeckEd hopes community members take note and join the effort to ensure local and state leaders put “children above politics.”
Called “Get on the Bus,” nonprofit MeckEd has launched a campaign this budget season to make it easy for parents, students, school staff and other concerned community members to successfully communicate and work with political leaders to put education and teachers first. The group recently released an electronic tool kit, available at its website, www.mecked.org, that gives people the resources needed to advocate for change, in particular in teachers’ salaries.
Now, the organization is taking training to the streets and will be in Ballantyne on Tuesday, April 22, from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Morrison Family YMCA, 9405 Bryant Farms Road. The meeting is the only session in south Charlotte and will give community members the opportunity to meet other supporters and learn how to work together for the common
“Our goal is to have PTA folks, have members of the school leadership teams and anybody in south Charlotte interested in public education,” Bill Anderson, executive director of MeckEd, said. “South Charlotte schools probably have some of the biggest classes in the county. Stacking up numbers in the classes – that’s a direct result of funding.”
According to the MeckEd electronic tool kit, roughly two out of three teachers work outside the classroom to make ends meet, and the average teacher salary in North Carolina is $45,737, ranked 46th in the nation, the tool kit said. The national average is $56,103. Additionally, North Carolina ranks 48th in starting teacher salary and 51st – dead last, including the District of Columbia – in teacher salary growth, Anderson said. In the past five years, North Carolina teachers received only a 1.2 percent pay raise in 2012, according to the tool kit.
“I’ve talked to a number of groups, and people are just up in arms about this. When it comes to education and it comes to your children, people are no longer objective,” Anderson said. “Public education is critical. I think people are embarrassed and concerned about the education in North Carolina and how it’s gone down hill so quickly.”
Anderson hopes the training sessions will not only encourage the community to advocate to leaders in Raleigh, but also to local county commissioners. At the sessions, MeckEd will provide community members with the needed information to get in touch with lawmakers. They’ll encourage and show people how to write letters to the editor and make posts on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They’ve even dedicated the hashtag “#onthebusnc” and are encouraging advocates to use social media to spread their concerns. Additionally, people can still write old-fashioned letters or send emails, Anderson said.
“I think it’s important to help the community be the most successful in their advocacy,” Anderson said. “You can’t just throw grenades… You don’t want to threaten with political retribution, but we have to be polite and make partnerships.”
Anderson also hopes the training session will help community members better understand who is to blame for the direction of public education in the state, he said. Many times, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders and the board of education take the hit from angry or concerned parents when it comes to funding issues. But it shouldn’t all be on the school district’s shoulders, Anderson said, adding the CMS Board of Education can only work with the money they’ve been given.
Additionally, the district and state is seeing a number of teachers leaving the profession because of funding issues and pressures of the job, Anderson said. Around 46 percent of teachers leave the profession each year in the United States, according to the MeckEd electronic tool kit.
“Teaching is not considered to be a very attractable career anymore,” Anderson said. “Public education is a cornerstone in our democracy and our country, and we have to start locally. It’s a local issue, but it’s also a state issue. Our job is to raise awareness, but we also have to advocate to move forward.”
Can’t make the Ballantyne training session? MeckEd will host another training event on Wednesday, April 23, from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Cornelius town hall, 21445 Catawba Ave. in Cornelius.