‘Speak Up for Public Education’ forum set for May 8

A non-partisan grassroots coalition called “WNC for Public Education”  is hosting a  May 8  public forum featuring student, parent and teacher speakers discussing how current legislation is impacting local schools and children, with elected officials on hand to speak to the issues and respond to community concerns.

Here’s the press release from the Asheville City Schools Foundation:

Crowded classrooms with fewer resources and less experienced teachers is what children in North Carolina may be facing as the state comes closer to earning the unfortunate distinction of ranking dead last in the U.S. in education dollars spent per child, as well as in the lowest starting and average teacher salaries. With rankings between 46th and 48th now, there isn’t far to go.

A non-partisan grassroots coalition called “WNC for Public Education” is calling for a reversal of this downward trend, and has been building support for a quality education for every child through a series of “Education Town Halls” across Buncombe County and the City of Asheville. These smaller meetings will culminate in a major regional event, “Speak Up for Public Education” scheduled for Thursday, May 8 at 6:00 p.m. in the T.C. Roberson HS gymnasium. The forum will feature student, parent and teacher speakers discussing how current legislation is impacting our schools and children, with elected officials on hand to speak to the issues and respond to community concerns.

WNC for Public Education is composed of individual parents, community members, teachers, education-related organizations including PTOs and PTAs, the Buncombe County Association of Educators, the Asheville City Schools Foundation, and others. Everyone is invited to join the effort to help shine the light on the successes of students and teachers in public schools across the region, as well as to point to opportunities for improvement, especially funding and testing.

“In addition to funding concerns, WNC for Public Education is asking that testing requirements be minimized in order to protect instructional time and preserve the students’ love of learning,” says parent Marilyn Kincaid. “We agree with the need for assessments to ensure our children are learning, but it doesn’t make sense that as much as 30% of instructional time in early grades is used for testing. Many children feel stressed and anxious, and may begin to dislike school.”

“Parents and teachers have had to pick up the slack when there aren’t enough supplies, and many simply can’t afford it,” says Enka parent Michelle Pace-Wood, another WNC for Public Education member. “PTOs and PTAs should be fundraising for enhancements to our students’ education, not for the bare necessities like text books and instructional supplies.”

Haw Creek parent Fyfe Aschenbrenner and Asheville City Schools parent Nick Haskell are concerned about teachers leaving the area if low salaries aren’t improved. “We’ve lost some good teachers already,” says Haskell, “and if things don’t change, a lot more will look for better opportunities in other states.” “I know our teachers, assistants and other school personnel work really hard,” says Ashchenbrenner. “They deserve our support, our respect and a fair salary.”

Speaking of the goals of the WNC for Public Education, parent and coalition member Amy Wamsley says of the group “We are definitely non-partisan, and are not interested in casting blame. We are simply interested in voicing our concerns and finding solutions to North Carolina’s public education issues. For our May 8th event, we have invited state and local elected officials, city and county school boards, council members and county commissioners, and expect a great turnout. We hope to see parents, teachers, business leaders, friends and neighbors from across the region come and ‘Speak Up for Public Education’ on May 8 at 6pm at the T.C. Roberson HS gym.”

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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