Well over 1,000 teachers, parents and students packed the gymnasium of Enka High School on Monday evening to rally against state education cuts.
The rally was organized on the quick in response to last week’s news that an education budget working through the N.C. General Assembly could increase class sizes by two students, eliminating 6,000 teacher positions statewide and 80 in Buncombe County.
The event was initially intended to be held in the school’s auditorium, but the turnout was large enough that it was moved to the gymnasium, and the ensuing traffic jam of cars coming to the rally meant it began about 30 minutes late.
The list of speakers ranged from PTA representatives, school-board members and a student-body president from Enka High, and their message was near universal: Cutting teachers would reverse progress made over the past 20 years in the level of Buncombe County education, and legislators need to find another way to make up the budget shortage.
“Now it is our job to be advocates for our children and the quality of their education,” said Mandy Brown, PTA President of Candler Elementary. “I encourage our House members to realize how detrimental these cuts will be for our students, and urge them to find new revenue to help these cuts to help education remain a priority in the state of North Carolina.”
Like most other speeches, Brown’s was punctuated by vigorous applause and standing ovations by the crowd, many of whom wore the red shirts that are becoming a symbol of solidarity among educators.
And though the rally ended with no new answers or news from legislators, some in attendance said they still have hope for a different solution.
“Obviously, it’s a good start,” said North Buncombe Middle teacher Alyse Tait. “But we can’t stop here.” Tait and her fellow teachers bore signs they plan to take to Raleigh later this month.
“I hope it’s a beginning, there are creative ways to do this,” said fellow North Buncombe Middle teacher Louise Watson, adding that there are other cuts that can be made besides cutting teachers and school support staff. “We can cut the air conditioners if we need to.”
— Brian Postelle, staff writer
(For late-breaking news from Raleigh concerning the budget and its education component, see this report.)