Hi all! This is Lillian McKeever, the Precinct’s summer intern, and I’ll be writing today’s email while Greg takes a well-deserved vacation. I first want to thank everyone who came out to our July Precinct meeting with special guests Elaine Powell and Erin Stanforth. They delivered a fantastic presentation on sustainability efforts within Mecklenburg County. I would also like to thank the Green Team for coming to that meeting prepared with many thought-provoking questions for our guests, which created a really well-informed discussion.
Since I’ve been back home this summer, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the place that raised me, and with the belief that it truly takes a village to raise a kid, the people who raised me too. An undeniably important addition to this list has to be teachers. Each and every one of them, from Pre-K to graduation, in math class to after-school guitar lessons, had some impact on my life. But, the good ones are unforgettable. The teachers who built my confidence and showed me grace when I made mistakes. The teacher who showed up to my guitar open-mics when I was in middle school and the one who allowed me to cry in his classroom when my grandfather passed during my sophomore year. I cannot list them all, but I was lucky to have teachers who had seemingly-endless compassion.
I am also aware that these teachers are not being appreciated, or paid, nearly enough. North Carolina ranks 46th in new teacher pay and the average salary for beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree is only $37,049. Many of my teachers growing up, especially those with families, had to work second or even third jobs just to make ends meet. That became the norm in a profession that was clearly not valued by our state enough to be sustainable, and I watched many teachers, including those who had a passion for the field, leave education altogether. The lack of pay for teachers comes from a lack of respect for the profession, and as efforts to increase teacher pay in North Carolina stalled this month, it is a problem that is far from over.
But teachers being undervalued and underpaid is not nearly the only issue set to face our public schools after summer break ends. Two weeks ago, a bill was introduced in the State House of Representatives that would require parental permission for students to access the library, extracurriculars, or mental health resources. It would also force teachers to report to a student’s parents if their child begins using different pronouns or self-identifies as a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth, even if that could put the child in a dangerous situation. While North Carolina’s Republican House Speaker told voters that he was unsure if he had the votes in his caucus to get the bill passed this session, it’s only a slight relief. These changes might not be imminent, but this bill certainly represents the desires of many GOP state legislators to undermine our state’s education system in the name of parent’s rights.
This is what the fight for our future looks like. I will forever be indebted to my teachers but the state of North Carolina doesn’t make it easy for them to stay. With astoundingly low pay and the introduction of new bills that would limit their ability to do their jobs, I am afraid that many of the teachers who helped raise me will not be able to help their future students in the same way. The fight for our future is the fight for our next generation’s education. It is the fight for our future leaders.