Authentic education advocacy. Take the risk.

In this blog space I post about three things with a fair amount of consistency – authenticity, taking risks along with the ongoing importance of adding value to ourselves and others.

I also post about the importance of educators advocating. In North Carolina, where the vast majority of funding for public education comes from the state level, I would argue, is even more important than many states in the nation due to our funding structure. Below is a link from the local NPR affiliate that takes a deep dive into public education funding in North Carolina.

https://www.wunc.org/post/10-questions-understand-school-funding-nc

Living in the Triangle, we are blessed with having fairly easy and ongoing access to our state legislature (North Carolina General Assembly), ongoing news coverage specific to state government and the ability to have discussions with house and senate members.

The past two years, educators from around the state have gathered in Raleigh to rally for increased per pupil spending, pay increases to our classroom teachers, school administrators, support personnel, etc. as well as more overall support and genuine respect for public education in general from our state legislature. These events have been very well attended and covered both at the local and national level.

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article229849024.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/01/us/south-carolina-teachers-protest-may-1/index.html

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While the majority of those that attended the May 1 event (and similarly last year) teachers made up the lion’s shared of those “in red.” As a school administrator, I proudly stood by the teachers I support in and around the school on a daily basis who were downtown doing their part. I did this last year and I did it again this year as well. Never a bit of hesitation. https://brendanfetters.com/2018/05/19/20000-nc-educators-marched-now-what/

While I was so pleased with strong turnouts, a well organized event by NCAE (North Carolina Association of Educators — National Education Association affiliate) both years I was very disappointed with the lack of educators wanting to go inside and have meetings with members. It is not a secret that I spend a few hours, afternoons and even days sometimes at the legislative building downtown lobbying members of both parties for increased education spending, support in the form of the annual budget, bond proposals for new school construction, etc. I know my way around Jones Street and the halls of both the NCGA and legislative office building pretty well at this point after several years of education policy involvement.

 

A lot of educators are fearful of going inside the legislative building. Fearful of having discussions with members about their profession. This is an unspoken level of discomfort that goes beyond just education – to the general public as well.

I recently had coffee with my state representative one Saturday morning. She asked how the ‘Day of Action’ went. I articulated my concern that so many of my brothers and sisters in education had little to no desire to join me in post-rally meetings even though I had done the legwork of setting up several meetings with key house and senate meetings after the event. Rep. Adcock made it very clear the importance that constituents realize that members are not experts in all walks of life.

Who knows what’s best for the needs and concerns of a family farm in eastern Wake County the best? A farmer who is working ground in that specific region. Who knows what’s best for a hospital in rural western North Carolina? A nurse or doctor in a hospital. rural western North Carolina. Who best knows the needs of K-12 education in their specific area of the state? A teacher or school administrator in that member’s specific area of the state.

Our voice is powerful. Our opinions matter. Do not assume that we are insignificant in the decisions going forward. As I’ve blogged about it the past we have power at our fingertips – utilize these resources and run with them.

https://brendanfetters.com/2017/12/17/get-informed-leave-the-sideline-take-a-seat-at-the-table/

Rallies can be powerful – authentic conversations with people making policy decisions directly effecting our profession are even more. Take a risk. Add value to you, your colleagues and the profession. Advocate.

 

 

20,000+ NC educators marched – now what?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 was an incredible day for democracy in our beloved Raleigh, NC. Exhausted from years of low per pupil funding, failure to reach national average for teacher pay and perceived lack of respect from the legislative majority within both chambers of the General Assembly post recession North Carolina educators had enough. Roughly 1/3 of the districts in the state closed for the day allowing educators from all over the state to make their collective journeys to  our beautiful capital city for the #RedForEd march for respect. This allowed for the event to not only happen, but being a glowing success with a broad-reach of statewide and national coverage.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/16/us/north-carolina-teachers/index.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/thousands-of-north-carolina-teachers-protest-for-better-wages-1235565123863

As a school administrator, a sizable chunk of my position is supporting teachers, students and the school community at large. This day was all about advocacy for a public education system that is often perceived, especially in the past decade, at the state and federal level as under attack by many forces. That said, this made my presence at the march a necessity. Time to step away from the day to day to stand proud with my brothers and sisters in education.

 

For years, I have been an advocate for public education. I stand up and ensure the story is being told. Verbally, through social media, within the community, etc. I’m always advocating. There is a lot of negativity being circulated, and often loudly, about what “is happening” in public schools. These are often baseless, half-truths and sadly even completely falsehoods. We as educators should be constantly telling our stories of what is happening in our schools. Share it often, share it ongoing.

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Additionally, while Wednesday’s events were a beautiful thing we as educators must build momentum off of this. Many educators have been content for years with standing on the sidelines when it comes to education policy and legislation that directly effects public education.

As I posted several months ago – the time is now to get off the sidelines. At the very least, all educators should be informed and at least fairly knowledgable with policies coming from the state level that directly impact our profession.

https://brendanfetters.com/2017/12/17/get-informed-leave-the-sideline-take-a-seat-at-the-table/

 

We simply can’t leave the sky high energy from Wednesday’s events in Raleigh. Become part of the process. Be involved in local and state policy. Take that seat at the table. Engage in conversation.

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Embrace the uncomfortable.

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I was so very proud of many educators who came Wednesday who I know were so far out of their comfort zone in marching but were all there in support of one common goal – full funding and respect coming from the state level toward public education. That’s a beautiful thing.

The energy can’t stop there. We have the resources. Utilize them. Share our stories. Learn. Grow. Advocate.

If you’re not happy with what the lawmakers who represent you are doing with public education funding and beyond – we all hold the greatest power within our democracy…

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Get informed. Leave the sideline. Take a seat at the table.

“Thank you for standing up for educators, Brendan.”

“Your passion and dedication for all of us is so impressive”

“You are such a strong voice for our profession.”

You always know what’s going on with the inner workings politically as it relates to education.”

This is a sampling of what I hear often from fellow educators. Why? I’m involved fairly heavily in educational policy in our state. While the above words of kindness are nice, and always well meaning I tend to push back on it. To me, as professional educators we all should be at the very least, informed.

As alluded to in a previous post, our state, especially in the Triangle market, does a great job of providing local political coverage that relates almost always indirectly, often directly to public education.

With the bulk of the funding in North Carolina coming from the state level (legislature) it really should be in the interest of all educators in the public sector especially to keep a close eye on what is happening on Jones Street and how it connects to our profession.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina offers a weekly program, Education Matters, that airs locally and also is available through online and podcast platforms that deals with significant issues directly related to our profession.

NC Spin offers weekly balanced debate on issues that often at the very least indirectly effect public education weekly and offers a strong method to be informed about what’s happening legislatively. In addition to airing locally, the program also is available online and in podcast formats.

Locally in the Raleigh market, the News & Observer has a daily blog and weekly podcast Under the Dome which provide insight and analysis that often dig deep into K-12 and higher education happenings.

In addition to being informed the next aspect is having a seat at the table. Whether local funding through the Wake County Board of Commissioners, or statewide advocacy groups like Public Schools First NC, North Carolina Foundation for Public School Children or the above mentioned Public School Forum of North Carolina being able to support public education at the next level is significant. Telling examples of what is happening in our schools, the needs, the successes, how we can improve and what specifically is needed. The seat at the table provides a voice. The more seats at the table, the louder the voice.

Being aware is the first step, involvement the second. Everyone in our profession should be aware. You don’t know what you don’t know is dangerous. Awareness is key. Involvement in the profess is the next step. At times it can be a little scary initially. Step out of your comfort zone. Advocate for the students we all serve and our profession. This is the opportunity to tell the amazing things happening in our schools K-12 and beyond on a daily basis to key stakeholders in our communities and beyond.

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Stay after these meetings, talk with with the board members, elected officials. Consider making an appointment with your local elected official or state house representative or state senate member. You’d be surprised how much these people truly want to hear what they can do to better the process.

It helps when you advocate in groups. For example the below group of educational leaders and I locally are all involved with equity outreach.

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Once you have that initial foundation when the time is right – step off the sideline. Make your voice heard. #KidsDeserveIt after all, right? So what do you say? Up for a seat at the table? Embrace the uncomfortable.

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