Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


ON WEDNESDAY, LEGISLATORS SHOULD GREET TEACHERS AS PARTNERS, NOT THE ENEMY: Thousands -- even tens-of-thousands -- of teachers, school administrators, parents of students and supporters will be in Raleigh to press for greater respect for and funding of our public school system. Legislators rarely have to face, eye-to-eye, those who are affected by the laws they pass. It is not comfortable. But it comes with the territory when legislators ask voters for the privilege to represent them. The 170 members of the General Assembly need to understand one VERY important thing. These visitors are NOT THE ENEMY. These fellow North Carolinians are coming to the state capital because they believe it is their job – and the legislature’s duty to fully support – our State Constitution’s guarantee of a “sound basic education” where “equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.”

HERE'S HOW MUCH TEACHERS PAY OUT OF POCKET FOR SCIENCE MATERIALS: Whatever salary the science teacher at your local public school makes per year, subtract $450. That’s how much money the typical middle and high school science teacher spends out of pocket each year on science lab materials. Our study involved 696 middle and high school science teachers nationwide, and 70 percent of teachers reported not having adequate funding to provide high-quality science instruction for their students. Also, teachers in suburban areas reported on average receiving 2.5 times more funds – $604.90, to be exact – than teachers in urban areas, who reported having $242.47 on average. And suburban teachers had 1.3 times more funds than teachers in rural areas, who reported having $462.93 on average for science instructional materials. Urban and rural schools are also more likely than suburban ones to face staffing challenges, putting rural and urban students on unequal footing when it comes to majoring in science-related fields and pursuing science careers.

JUSTIN PARMENTER: FOR TEACHERS, MAY 16 IS ABOUT MORE THAN PAYCHECKS: Classes with so many children that some have to sit on the floor. Other classes taking place in closets. Blind students who can’t get books in Braille. History textbooks with George Bush as president. Kindergarten classes with 30 students and no assistant. Teachers forced to stop class to attend to special medical needs because there’s no nurse on duty. Welcome to public school in North Carolina. As the number of teachers planning to come to Raleigh for the May 16 “Rally for Respect” passes 10,000, efforts by some to discredit the uprising by characterizing teachers as money grubbers have intensified. However, the fact is, it’s not really about the paychecks. We teach because we love North Carolina’s children, and we want to see them succeed. Unfortunately, our General Assembly's misplaced priorities not only create difficult working conditions for our teachers, they create unacceptable learning conditions for students that have lasting impacts on student behavior and achievement. Those misplaced priorities include lowering NC’s corporate tax rate to the lowest in the country and giving up $3.5 billion in potential revenue each year.

THE FUTURE OF FACTS LOOKS EVEN WORSE: “If Reality Is Altered, What Can We Believe In?” In 1994, that was the headline of the first column I ever wrote about the manipulation of images and words — digital lies that made it difficult to know what was really real. Small wonder, I said, we were a nation “paralyzed by cynicism.” Twenty-four years later, the technology has improved while social media have made the lies ubiquitous. And “cynicism” would be a feeble word for the state of the union today, when the very idea of knowable truth is in controversy, an adviser to a lying president speaks airily of “alternative facts,” the news is filled with conspiracy theories and it has become distressingly clear that many of us simply don’t care, blithely rejecting all facts that collide with preferred fictions. The scary thing is, it’s about to get worse. Consider that it is already possible, with a little tech savvy, to produce an image or video of you doing something you never did. Well, now it will be possible to pair that with audio of you saying — in your own voice — something you never said. As if it were not already hard enough to know the truth when you hear it.

DON'T LET THE POLLUTION CONTINUE: The Southern Environmental Law Center, acting on behalf of the Cape Fear River Watch, this week filed a request for a declaratory ruling by the state Department of Environmental Quality that will immediately halt all emissions of GenX and related compounds into the air, land and water. The law center also filed notice that it intends to sue Chemours, the DuPont spinoff company that operates the Fayetteville Works, for violations of the federal Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. The legal filings present lengthy evidence of the extent of the pollution coming from the property that sits between N.C. 87 and the Cape Fear River. They make it clear that we’re not just looking at a GenX problem, but rather at a broad array of chemicals within the GenX family of perfluorinated compounds that are used or created at the Fayetteville Works. The DEQ, according to the legal papers, has found at least 33 perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — collectively referred to as PFAS — emitted or discharged from the plant.


SUE BARNETT: BLAME RIGHT-TO-WORK LAWS FOR DUKE COFFEE SHOP INCIDENT: The question is not why two hardworking, conscientious baristas could be so capriciously fired, but how they lost their jobs. Neither Larry Moneta nor Robbie Roberts used common-sense compassion to listen to the baristas’ side of the story. You might say they were accidently fired in absence of a company recourse policy. And Joe Van Gogh Coffee doesn’t need one; they have NC Law on their side. Under NC’s insidious Right-to-Work laws, employers in North Carolina have significant discretion to dismiss their workers. These heinous laws are designed to protect employers. When an individual doesn’t have any recourse in the workplace, their only hope of being heard is through organized labor. Anti-union sentiment is bought and paid for by employers in NC and it’s no wonder that many folks view them as blood-sucking employment disrupters. But when they operate at their best, unions enhance production and most certainly enhance the lives of the workers. Often, they’re simply advocating for better safety measures or a living wage. At best, Moneta and Roberts miscommunicated, and two innocent employees suffered. What’s evident is that these two baristas were not valued. They’re seen as replaceable and expendable. Move along. Next.

WILLIAM TOTH: GOP TACTICS ARE WHY TEACHERS WILL PROTEST: I applaud the actions of the teachers of North Carolina. High time teachers in the North State advocated for public education and the majority of N.C. students and parents who rely on it. What most do not realize or understand, it is not solely for themselves that they speak. Our state legislature has done so much to dismantle public education over the years that the Republican Party has dominated it, giving tax money to private schools, promoting corporate-run charters, canceling pay status for advanced degrees, doing away with job security for long-serving teachers and, most recently, doing away with health benefits for future hires. How is any of this going to help the students of the Tar Heel State? How will N.C. attract quality educators with credentials and policies like these? As I write this, it is Teacher Appreciation Week. I am in Central Florida, this school year. Some of the same issues that afflict North Carolina also affect things here in Florida. Same cause, too. The Republican Party will not cease its anti-public education actions until either we remove them from power or they turn over education to corporations or private schools totally.

VONNA VIGLIONE: USE NATURAL ENERGY: Regarding “Sounding an alarm about fracked gas” (May 6): Bravo to Ned Barnett. Facts are indeed stubborn things. But I am so happy to see that Barnett has taken the time to research the facts about methane, fracking and the false narrative about the superiority of natural gas. Here in our “Good Old North State” we are blessed with the ability to harvest so many forms of truly natural energy. Imagine too a manufacturing, installation and servicing sector devoted to solar, wind or even wave or geothermal energy systems. North Carolina has everything we need to become a leader. Staying tethered to fossil fuels in any form might mean a big profit margin for Duke Energy, but there is a triple bottom line for a truly evolved form of capitalism that includes profits, but also people and the planet.



From the dark side

This week's prize must be shared by several bitter letter-writers who oppose the teacher rally:

Ian Batchelor: Walkout 'shameful': What kind of example are teachers setting for our young people in the public school system these days? if you are a teacher and unhappy about your pay, forget about your mission of teaching and providing much needed moral, ethical, emotional and physical support to the younger generation. Just go ahead, turn your backs and walk out on them. Shameful that in this great nation of ours our army of “K1-12 educators” can’t take on the task themselves without crying incessantly about how put out they are because of their pay. $40,000 + medical + time off + pension doesn’t mean enough to you to show up for work and stay in class? The kids try to look up to you and stay in class, but how can they possibly when you walk out on them? Just maybe the disgruntled teachers should go to work at a coffee shop or a large hardware store or a gas station – or better yet, go and teach in The Philippines or Indonesia for awhile. Then they may get a bit of educational knowledge to impart on our young people, or at least their own children.

Those other recommended jobs are really all you need to know about this jerk. He doesn't view teachers as professionals, who have spent years (and tens of thousands of dollars) studying before pursuing their careers, he views them as unskilled workers who should be happy with their predicament. And whether he knows it or not, he's a f**king metaphor.

Anthony Bruno: Best interests?: I read Wake County schools will close May 16 due to so many teachers “asking” for the day off to attend the “March for Students and Rally for Respect” in Raleigh at the General Assembly, an indication the ‘audience’ are our legislators. When so many employees “ask” for time off, not every request can or should be approved. This is the way it is in the private sector, but I guess that would be expecting too much. Nor should we expect teachers to rally on their time, not during work hours. If they truly cared for students they would not interrupt the school week. And what ‘respect’ are they rallying for? Surely not for students that are completing the last phase of the school year when their attention should be paid to their finals. To see the Wake School Board cower to the “request” as politicians might is equally disappointing. The board states it’s “in the best interests of all partners.” Well, I guess the parents are not considered “partners” as they now have to make arrangements for their children as schools will be closed.

The teachers aren't doing this for themselves, you idiot. They're actually doing it for those same students and parents. Teachers are "making arrangements" to improve the future of those students.

Steven Metzler: Saving money: Can someone please let me know how much taxpayer money we can save by not paying teachers for going on strike May 16 instead of teaching our children?

And the Irony Stick hits another one in the head. It's the whole "saving taxpayers money" selfish mentality that has led us to this point in the first place. Look in a mirror, jackass.

Connie Barbour: 'recruitment tool': On my daughter’s charter school Facebook group, one parent asked if the school was going to be closed on May 16 due to the teacher rally. Another parent said, “That’s too bad we aren’t closed.” There is some sort of rally or march every two years when a new budget is in the process of being created. What makes this special is that enough teachers are participating to close entire school districts. Although they are not a union, the North Carolina Association of Educators is using the union’s playbook to get their message across. It’s not that teachers are so uncaring that they are taking the day off near the end of the school year. They’re gathering on May 16 because it’s the first day the legislature is in session. I am all for teachers getting paid more; however, this political grandstanding just shows that students are not the priority of NCAE. Consider that this is a great recruitment tool to increase membership and keep NCAE a viable organization in a non-union state.

You undermined your own argument. You say this is just "grandstanding" and union "recruiting," but you also noted it was scheduled on the Legislature's first day back. There's a Budget to be created and finalized, and the teachers (and NCAE) want those lawmakers to get it right. *That's* the reason they're going to Raleigh, not some tired and re-hashed anti-union trope.

As far as the timing in the school year, what the hell does that have to do with the price of tea in China? The Legislative calendar is totally different than the schools' calendar, and if you're thinking they should have "waited until the Summer break," guess what? Many of those teachers don't get a break, they go to work full time in the Summer just to make ends meet.

If nothing else, this impending teacher rally has exposed many of the misconceptions people hold on the current state of affairs in NC's public school system. This rally is right on time.