Every Wednesday, Leesville’s colors of green and blue bleed into a striking red.
“Red4ed on Wed” is a way for both teachers and students to raise awareness against the new Excellent Public Schools Act of 2013, which passed this summer. Red4edNC, a website and association run by teachers here at Leesville, posts various articles that discuss certain matters of the Act.
For example: by June 2014, each principal of North Carolina must select the “best” 25% of their faculty and allow them the option to sign a four year contract. “If they sign that contract,” wrote Angela Scioli, teacher at Leesville, on Red4edNC, “they will be promised a $500 bonus for each year they teach under that contract. They accumulate each year, to total $5000 over the four years.”
However, once those few teachers sign the dotted line, they will voluntarily surrender their tenure which ensures job security by building up years of work at schools.
In addition, by the year 2018 all teachers of North Carolina will relinquish their accumulated tenure regardless of whether or not they are in that special 25%. And so, it seems logical for those teachers ranked as top fourth of the school to sign the four year contract, for they will lose their tenure anyway–it’s just a matter of when.
An election will be held before 2018 that could easily change who is involved in NC legislature. If there is a radical change in the NC government, then this Act may not stay in commission.
And so the real question is–if the Act is revoked in four-years time, what will they do with the teachers who signed the contract and lost all of their tenure? Would they receive all their years back, or would they have to start from scratch? This is still under debate.
It isn’t North Carolina alone that is experiencing this jeopardization of tenure–teachers in Louisiana and South Dakota lost their tenure last year. Other states such as Colorado and Florida have forms of tenure, but the privileges are extremely limited. For example, Stateline mentioned that teachers with tenure in Arizona are ranked in the lowest performance category, allowing for those with tenure to be fired much easier than those without.
The entire state of Texas has followed North Carolina’s lead. Teachers of TX created their own Red4edTX, modeled off the NC organization designed by Leesville’s very own teachers.
In response to the many changes the Act has put in place–loss of tenure being only one of the many–teachers around the state organized a statewide walk-out for November 4. (This walk-out was not designed by members of Red4edNC.) Teachers were encouraged to call in sick or ask for a substitute prior to that day to ensure that their students wouldn’t be left alone.
This walk-out, though, could have posed for harmful effects towards the students. The protest would have hindered students’ learning, which does the very opposite of what the teachers are trying to achieve. Leaving the students behind will only cause damage towards them, rather than damage the Excellent Public Schools Act like it is directed towards.
The official NC Teacher Walk-out did mention that, “While the intention [of the walk-out] was not to actually walk out on our students or our responsibilities, it has since gotten much attention from the media… Parents need to know what is going on in public schools and how they can get involved and support teachers.”
Heather Dinkenor, English teacher here at Leesville, calls for a gentler approach. “I think it’s just simply saying, ‘We are protesting your choices by continuing to give absolute excellence to our students, to the school community,’” Dinkenor said in the NewsObserver. Rather than a full-fledged walk out, Red4edNC calls for teachers and students to wear red on Wednesdays as a way for peaceful protest.
“We [teachers] feel like we’re not on a path that will lead us to retain and attract the best and brightest of our teachers to our classrooms,” said Scioli. “With this new legislation, teachers are choosing to leave the classroom in great numbers, and that is detrimental to our state.”
After thinking through the consequences of the walk-out, organizers cancelled the event and instead organized a walk-in. According to WRAL, various schools around the state called for teachers, parents, and students to “walk-in” by protesting in front of their schools.
However, this raises the issue of teachers bringing politics into the classroom. News&Record provided the joint statement from Senator Berger and Senator Hunt, “[schools should] not serve as marching grounds for political protests orchestrated by unions.”
Red4edNC does not support either protest of walking-in or -out, and instead, as stated before, calls for students and teachers to wear red on Wednesdays. “We don’t want to divide the community, but rather unite the community to support public schools,” said Scioli. This is a way for teachers to protest, yet continue to work hard despite their rivalry with the state legislation.
Red4edNC is an essential advocate for teachers against the legislation in NC; Leesville should be proud of their teachers’ spirit to stand for what they believe in.