Surrounded by news of funding-driven staff cuts and crumbling schools, the Stokes County Board of Education proudly passed five resolutions aimed at supporting teachers and protecting state public school funding from charter schools on Monday night.
The resolutions included calls for assurances for teacher’s to be able to speak publicly about issues impacting schools, a call to increase per-pupil state funding, a call to place charter schools under the authority of local boards of education, an opposition to legislation to establish Achievement Districts which could remove local control of schools, and a request to disband the statewide A-F grading system of school systems.
Board member Bill Hart said all of the resolutions were needed to fight against what he called a calculated “attack on public education” by the General Assembly.
“We obviously need to have something like this that tells our legislators not to take it for granted,” he said. “We need to keep sending them that message every day that we can because there is an attack on education in the state of North Carolina.”
Several county educators spoke in support of the resolutions during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting.
“When I became a teacher, the state was known as one of the best for schools in the whole nation,” said Ashley Johnson. “Now it has turned into one of the worst in the nation. Stokes County Schools has done a good job of doing more with less and less. However we are not on a sustainable path and we need to have more money.”
She said it was important for school employees to speak about issue without fear of reprimands from either local administrators or state officials.
“We have the right to our free speech outside of the school property and on our own time,” she said. “We owe it to our children and our children’s children.”
Patrick Minges, co-president of the Stokes County Association of Educators, made a clear argument against charter schools, noting that they do not answer to elected officials and are not required to meet the same standards as public schools, but yet are entitled to funding that could be used to improve the public schools.
“Over 20 percent of charter schools fair significantly worse than public schools,” he said. “And to be honest, charter schools do not serve the same population as public schools. All schools should be held responsible to the community they serve through an elected leadership.”
Marsha Dunn, a teacher at South Stokes High School and co-president of the Stokes County Association of Educators, warned that a plan to create achievement districts for low performing schools was a loosely veiled attempt to dismantle public education.
“These districts will be five of the lowest performing schools, be headed by a board selected by the state, and be ran by for profit charters,” she said. “They have already attempted this in other states, including Tennessee, without success. Scores are much worse in achievement or take over districts than when they were still publicly run schools.”
She warned that if the plan was passed it would quickly turn into a private takeover of the public school system.
Dunn also said the A-F grading system for schools, a system recently implemented by the state which provides a simple letter grade for the quality of performance at schools and for districts, would also hurt schools in impoverished areas.
“It is just a cynical scheme to simply discredit, defund and eventually dismantle our public schools,” she said. “The A through F grades are more of a statement on poverty than actual school performance. Opponents of public schools use these grades to shame low income school districts and funnel tax dollars to unaccountable charter schools”.
She said the grading system did not take into account issues students from poor or rural communities faced outside of the classroom and how those issues impacted school performance.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.