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Shown: Woman with her back to the camera holding a sign in her right hand that reads "We are better than this!". Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Jessica Burroughs's picture

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Earlier this week, NC Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger commented on the upcoming NC Public Schools Day of Advocacy: “Teacher strikes are illegal in NC, and in some respects what we’re seeing looks like a work slowdown, and looks like a fairly typical union activity, and the people of NC don’t support that sort of action” (Twitter, 5/7/18).  My children and I are marching in the NC Public Schools Day of Advocacy to show our legislators that this day of advocacy has broad support, not only from teachers but also from the ordinary “people of NC”, like me.  

As a product of the North Carolina public school system, I grew up believing in the social contract, defined as “an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits” (google online dictionary). As I have watched my two children (fourth grade and sixth grade) move through the public school system, I have observed the gradual unraveling of this social contract.  Whereas public school teachers and administrators are working overtime to uphold their end of the social contract, they cannot sustain their work when other parties to the agreement forego their responsibility. North Carolina lawmakers have refused to invest in the high-quality education that our children deserve, so this part of the social contract must be demanded by us “ordinary people”.

Over the past seven years, I have seen one fabulous teacher after the other leave the schools because of low teacher pay and lack of resources.  My older son had three different teachers in the fourth grade alone, beginning with a highly skilled teacher who resigned because of low teacher pay and ending with a substitute for the last six weeks of school.  My son and many of his peers struggled in math that year because of the teacher transitions; two years later he is still working to catch up. I have also had teachers make passionate pleas for Kleenex for their classrooms, and yesterday my younger son told me that they do not have enough erasers in his classroom. How can students learn from their mistakes if they cannot even erase and correct? How can teachers focus on teaching when their students have runny noses that they are wiping on any available surface for lack of tissue paper?

Many people do not have the flexibility to attend the rally on May 16th or stay home with their children that day.  Although I am looking forward to the rally itself, I am even more excited about the efforts underway in my community to provide food and child care to students on May 16th.  Tonight I will attend a community meeting to continue to organize resources for feeding and caring for kids on May 16th.  I am humbled by the generosity I see all around me to address the needs of students and families that day.  Perhaps the social contract is not dead after all. The preparation for May 16th highlights the role public schools play in our communities— bringing different types of people together to learn, grow, and reach their potential.  Now it’s up to all of us, not just teachers, to demand that public schools receive the respect and funding needed to do this critical work.

 

Jessica Burroughs

Durham mother

North Carolina MomsRising member


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