On Monday, November 4, teachers across North Carolina led “walk-ins” to protest the General Assembly’s savage cuts to education this past legislative session, opting to show up for their students—wearing red for public education, greeting them as they entered school buildings, and holding rallies and speak-outs against the cuts—rather than walking out. NC HEAT, or Heroes Emerging Amongst Teens, encouraged students to show support for their teachers by attending walk-in rallies, wearing red to school and giving their teachers apples as statements of solidarity. NC HEAT members also showed up early to distribute literature about the plight of public education at three high schools where teacher actions had been squashed by administration. NC HEAT leaders Markyona and Jennifer co-wrote this statement of solidarity with teachers, which was distributed to high school teachers around the Triangle area:
North Carolina Heroes Emerging Among Teens (NC HEAT) recognizes the struggles of North Carolina teachers and students to be intertwined. We recognize that education based on harm reduction and restorative justice are contingent upon meaningful investment in educators and student support staff. As students in North Carolina, we can personally see and feel the impacts that our state’s policies towards teachers are having. Our class sizes are growing, our classroom resources are slowly diminishing, and just as these issues are impacting us as students, they are also hurting the very teachers who are dedicated to helping us get the most out of our educations and succeed.
Teachers in North Carolina are significantly underpaid in relation to teacher salaries across the rest of the nation. Having the 4th lowest average teacher salary in the United States, $10,000 less than the national average, North Carolina is losing the valuable teachers that school systems need to successfully educate students. Teachers should not be forced to work separate part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. When talented and dedicated teachers are relocating to other states with higher salaries, students in North Carolina are being put at a disadvantage.
From a young age, teachers are a vital influence on the lives of students and when the proper resources are not being provided in the classroom, this influence can become lessened. Especially within younger grades, teacher assistants are particularly critical in the classroom. Students need as much one-on-one attention as they can get, and without these teaching assistant positions, this attention becomes significantly harder to come by.
NC HEAT demands that teachers be paid adequately for the work that they do, that class sizes be reduced, and that paid teacher assistants and other support staff be hired. We encourage students across North Carolina to participate in walk-ins across the state in protest of current policies, and give their teachers an apple on November 4th in an act of solidarity.