Raleigh – Yesterday’s peaceful rally for respect and education was an unprecedented movement in success, size, and scale. It was also an unmitigated disaster for Speaker Moore, Pro Tem Berger, and the Republican General Assembly.
The march, which some estimates said reached 30,000 people, was the culmination of seven years of Republican attacks on public education. How bad was yesterday for Republican lawmakers? Here’s a look:
1. Republicans Attacked, Belittled, and Shrugged Off Teachers and their Concerns. Before the march even began, Republicans made their view of our educators clear:
- Rep. Brody belittled public school teachers, labeling them “teacher union thugs”
- Rep. Szoka told teachers to be grateful they’re not farmers and in a tone-deaf comment asked, “why are teachers unhappy with [funding from the General Assembly]?”
- Speaker Moore attacked the march as partisan, claiming that it’s “orchestrated by Democrats.” (Teachers told the real story; “Ain’t no Democrat told me to come out here and support the teachers,” Robeson County teacher Robin Lowery said.)
- Senate Pro Tem Berger implicitly threatened teachers by needlessly reminding them that “teacher strikes are illegal in NC,” and that the march “looks like a fairly typical union activity.”
- Rep. Iler said that Republicans have “allocated plenty of money” for classrooms (meanwhile, students are forced to draw in pictures of the last two presidents because their textbooks are so outdated.)
2. Republican Spin Fell Flat – and Revealed How Rattled They are. Republicans spent the past week trying to spin their way out of years of underfunding our schools and belittling teachers. For all that hot air, it did little good. Here’s what the public heard:
Even Speaker Moore’s office wasn’t committed to their own spin, telling CNN:
Editorial boards noticed too. Republicans “appear a bit, well, nervous,” the Charlotte Observer noted. They had a “unusual flurry of counter-programming” leading up the march. They were, in short, “rattled.”
Republicans were rattled because, as Sen. Berger said at his press conference before the rally, “the numbers speak for themselves” – and no amount of spin could change that.
3. Republican Attacks on Public Education Made National News. The teacher march received a national spotlight throughout this week, and with it Republicans’ attacks on public education.
“Educators across the state walked out of schools and gathered for a rally in Raleigh in hopes that lawmakers will hear their calls for higher pay and funding for classroom resources they say have been diminished by a decade of cuts while major corporations have gotten tax breaks.”
Teachers “marched through North Carolina’s capital demanding a raise — along with more state funding for education — from lawmakers who they say have been shortchanging public schools for years.”
Associated Press: North Carolina Teachers Staging Rallies to Protest Low Pay
“The recent wave of teacher activism sweeping through conservative, tax-cutting states has washed into North Carolina, where educators have pledged to fill the streets and bring their demands for better pay and school resources to legislators’ doorstep.”
“Thousands of North Carolina teachers descended Wednesday on the statehouse in Raleigh to protest a growing funding crisis that has left schools with dwindling supplies of textbooks, ballooning class sizes, a dearth of qualified teachers and educator pay that lags far behind the national average.”
4. Yesterday’s enthusiasm will translate to the ballot box. In the galleries of the General Assembly, teachers chanted to Republican members, “Remember, remember, we vote in November.”
People are fired up. They’re marching in the streets. They’re protesting Republican efforts to rig our state against working people.
Add in that Democrats have outlined a positive message, are running strong candidates in every single district, and have a unprecedented initiative to break the majority, and it’s clear why Republicans are rattled and why tomorrow will be felt in November.
“Thirty thousand people don’t show up on your doorstep if you’re doing something right,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said.“Republicans have prioritized rigging our economy for their donors and corporations over our public schools for too long and people are finally standing up and saying ‘enough.’ Yesterday was an unmitigated disaster for Speaker Moore, Senate Pro Tem Berger, and North Carolina Republicans, one that will be felt in November.”