Legislative Update: 12-7-2020
What a year 2020 has been for all of us! Our state’s educators have been forced to stand on the front line during the pandemic. PENC cannot thank you enough for all that you have done and faced during this challenging year. We have been working throughout the year to remind all our elected officials in Raleigh what you have faced, and that it is time they acknowledge their support both financially and verbally through legislation.
PENC was engaged with the General Assembly early during the pandemic, asking legislators to get the federal funds out to our schools to purchase the PPEs, and we have continued to provide sound bites to legislators’ ears that classroom/school safety is vital if students are going to participate in face-to-face learning. We will continue to have conversations with the appropriations chairs to make sure that all safety measures are funded for our schools.
Executive Director Bill Medlin and our lobbyist, Bryan Holloway, have been working diligently all year to talk with the governor’s office and legislators. Recently, Medlin and Holloway have had Zoom meetings with key Republican and Democrat education leaders. So far, they have had conversations with Rep. Jeffrey Elmore and Rep. Ashton Clemmons. Rep. Elmore previously chaired the House Education Appropriations and Education Policy Committees, and he is a former past president of PENC. Rep. Clemmons, a strong education leader, is a former educator who currently owns an education consulting business.
Both members are very supportive of public education and have helped PENC many times in the past. We discussed the salary situation and once again reminded them that teachers and support staff were the only group overlooked and who went without raises last year. We expressed that although there were efforts to allocate a raise, it did not happen because we got caught up in the politics of Raleigh. We discussed the pandemic as mentioned earlier, and accountability measures for our schools and teachers. PENC understands that much of the testing is required by the federal government, and the federal government has not provided any testing relief. Knowing where our kids stand in the middle of the pandemic is not necessarily a bad thing, but we advocated that safety measures must be put in place.
We also expressed that it is not fair to judge our schools’ performance during this pandemic and that holding our students and teachers accountable with these exams is wrong. Both legislators listened and offered support for our positions. We will continue to follow up with these education leaders when they return to Raleigh in January.
PENC has several other state leaders and legislators from both the House and Senate scheduled for Zoom calls later this month and in the first of the year. One of these is the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, Catherine Truitt. PENC will be advocating many of the same points to Superintendent Truitt, and we will be encouraging her to support our educators from her post at DPI.
This will be the last report we send out in 2020, but we will follow up in the New Year to report on the meetings we have scheduled, and we will continue to work hard for our educators in North Carolina. We appreciate so much what you do, and we value your membership with PENC. Stay safe during the Holiday Season, and we will all hope for a brighter 2021!