Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that to every thing there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to reap, and a time to sow. A time to break down, and a time to build up. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.
For North Carolina teachers, now is the time to strike.
The working conditions for teachers in North Carolina have become untenable. On Facebook and Twitter, I am inundated with updates from my home state, pleas from fellow North Carolina Teaching Fellow alumni about their bottom-of-the-barrel pay and their now-worthless Master’s degrees. These teachers share heartbreaking letters to the Republican governor written by parents who can no longer support their families on a teacher’s salary. They post Instagram photos from Moral Monday, where activists weekly overrun the North Carolina General Assembly, a body under the dominion of a radical Republican majority that would make Jesse Helms blush. But as these teachers — my former classmates — despair, they haven’t seriously considered the best option on the table: a teacher’s strike.
How else can teachers roll back the decision to revoke pay for graduate degrees? How else can teachers decrease class sizes? How else can they reverse the over 9,000 jobs lost?
Imagine the collective power of every teacher not showing up for the first day of school in all of the Old North State’s 100 counties. Imagine parents explaining to children why they weren’t in school today, parents who remind their children how important it is to treat their teachers with dignity and respect. Imagine Governor Pat McCrory being forced to convene an emergency session to restore teacher pay back towards the national average.
Teachers in North Carolina are not allowed to strike. Nor are they allowed to unionize. But they already have a professional organization without collective bargaining rights, the North Carolina Association of Educators. Its president, Rodney Ellis, has already been courageously arrested during one of the Moral Monday protests. “The legislature passed a budget that will ultimately destroy public education in North Carolina,” Ellis said, and he’s right. It is time for teachers to follow Ellis’s lead and turn desperation and despair into righteous anger. More…