A few dozen Anson County teachers, school administrators, politicians and other supporters of public schools braved rapidly dropping temperatures at dusk Monday night to rally in front of the Anson County Courthouse.
Dannie Montgomery, chair of the Anson Association of Educators, organized the rally, which president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, Rodney Ellis, attended. “He was delighted to come here to talk to Anson County teachers and let teachers know we’re behind everything they’re doing here,” said Donald Lloyd, UniServ director of the South Central Region of the NCAE.
To kick off the rally, Montgomery said, “We’re fed up and we’re not going to take it anymore.” She described education as promised by “our heavenly father” and a dream of Martin Luther King Jr. “We want every child to have what the dream they were promised,” she added.
After several local pastors prayed for jobs, good health, unity and education, Montgomery read a letter of support from Anson County Schools Superintendent Michael Freeman, who couldn’t attend the rally due to a previously planned Board of Education meeting.
County Commission Chair Anna Baucom spoke of how her mother had a seventh-grade education and her father, only a third-grade education. “They had to go to work because it was the Great Depression,” she said. “But they were determined for me to have an education. My parents knew that only educated people could truly be free.”
She added that it’s important for all people to be able to vote. “We’ve got to stand up and pick some candidates that will support education in North Carolina.”
Quantavious Liles, a student at Anson Early College, read a letter of support for Anson County’s teachers. “I believe Anson County teachers have applied themselves to our motto, ‘All Means All.’ They have prepared us for our life challenges.”
Pastor Iris Tillman of Morven’s Church of God and Prophecy echoed the remarks of Baucom and Montgomery, saying that “the greatest need I have found is the need for knowledge.” Rev. Michael Massey, residing elder of the A.M.E. Zion District of Rockingham, said that his wife has taught in North Carolina’s public school system for 25 years. “I asked my wife once why she wanted to teach. She said she wanted to inspire the minds of tomorrow.”
Ellis concluded the rally by stating that he is committed to leading the fight for public education in North Carolina. “The first thing our state legislators did this year was eliminate 9,306 education professionals across the state,” he said. The legislature also voted against increasing teacher salaries, leaving North Carolina ranked 46th in the country, soon to be 48th.
The General Assembly also implemented a $50 million voucher program for private and charter schools, which Ellis said “will send an exodus of students to private and charter schools.” North Carolina lawmakers also eliminated career status in public schools, meaning that any teacher can be terminated at any time, without a hearing to determine proper cause. Legislators also eliminated a salary increase for educators with master’s degrees. “Who doesn’t want a teacher with a master’s degree?” Ellis asked. “North Carolina doesn’t.”
They eliminated the Teaching Fellows program as well, he said, which discourages future teacher development. “The bad part is that they’ll be back in March to finish the job,” Ellis said. “But I will not stand by and watch a handful of people destroy the futures of so many others.”
He ended his speech by saying the most important thing the community can do is to vote. “Vote for pro-public education candidates, regardless of party,” he said.
Montgomery concluded the rally by saying, “The people [in our legislature] need to go, because they are not voting in the best interest of North Carolina.”
Montgomery is circulating a petition in support of public education, which will be delivered to state senators and representatives. For more information, contact Montgomery at 704-694-8326 or firstname.lastname@example.org.