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Fixing education: N.C. protest symptomatic of larger spending battle

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 13 2013 9:53 p.m. MDT

Educators gathered Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Wilmington, N.C., to protest pending state spending cuts that threaten to eliminate more than 3,000 teacher's assistants positions throughout the Tar Heel state.

“At the rally … speakers said claims such as Gov. Pat McCrory's statement that education had not been cut or Sen. Thom Goolsby's assertion that the changes would weed out bad teachers were incorrect,” Pressley Baird wrote for the Wilmington Star News.

In fairness to state legislators, though, Baird’s article later disclosed, “Many districts did receive slightly more funding from the state this year. But those extra dollars are going to cover increased cost of benefits such as retirement and hospitalization, while budgets for teachers, teacher's assistants and classroom supplies were cut.”

Local radio station WHQR reported, “The ‘Get Your Facts Straight’ Rally, as the (North Carolina Association of Educators) dubs it, drew dozens of New Hanover County residents sporting red — in solidarity with the teachers’ union. Protesters waved signs and cheered a series of speakers who urged teachers and parents to demand education reform by voicing their concerns and challenging politicians at the local and state levels.”

Although what transpired Tuesday in Wilmington amounts to a local rally with fewer than 100 protesters, it’s indicative of a national issue that’s increasingly gripping state education spending: how to reconcile rising pension costs with rising student populations.

Earlier this month the liberal magazine The Nation reported on the growing phenomenon of street protests over education reform in major cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle: “Such demonstrations together represent a forceful challenge to the corporate-financed push for ‘education reform’ undertaken by the likes of Michelle Rhee, the former schools chancellor of Washington, D.C. But these movements are more than mere isolated acts of resistance; in their demands, the outlines of a coherent policy agenda can be discerned — one that looks honestly at what it will take to bring quality education to America’s least privileged communities.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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