What NC Democrats say about teacher shortages, solutions

House Democratic Leader Robert Reives, pictured here in a file photo during a June legislative session, is calling for an end to

House Democratic Leader Robert Reives, pictured here in a file photo during a June legislative session, is calling for an end to “demonizing” public education.

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A few days before thousands of North Carolina students go back to school amid a statewide teacher shortage, top North Carolina Democrats say state leaders need to stop “demonizing” public schools and make it easier to be an educator.

House Democratic Leader Robert Reives told reporters during a news conference Thursday at the Legislative Building that the state government needs to “make sure that public education is seen as a good, professional option for people coming out of school.”

Aside from paying more and improving school funding as part of the long-running Leandro court case, Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue said “we can do things to substantially improve the condition of being a teacher.”

“You don’t put the bullseye on their back and organize people across the state to demonize them for what they are teaching in a basic education plan,” Blue said. “Should you demonize teachers because they’re teaching some aspect of civics, so the kids understand how their government is organized in elementary school? Should you demonize them because you’re trying to teach them rudimentary concepts of science, while they’re young?”

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Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, of Wake County, and other General Assembly Democrats spoke to reporters about teacher shortages and conditions during a news conference Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022 at the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh, NC Dawn B. Vaughan [email protected]

Blue alluded to but didn’t specifically mention the Republican-sponsored education bill targeting Critical Race Theory that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed last year, and the forthcoming memoir by Republican Lt. Govt. Mark Robinson in which he talks about not teaching all subjects in elementary schools. Robinson was also behind the vetoed legislation and wanted to ban some books from school libraries that he and others deemed inappropriate.

“Should we be making them go on bookshelves and take books off the shelves?” Blue said. “Should we make them the enemy of the public and sic angry parents at them, based on misinformation? We can make the condition of teaching much friendlier.”

Democrats are the minority party in both the House and Senate. Republicans have a majority, but not a veto-proof supermajority that they are hoping to gain after the 2022 election. Key issues motivating voter turnout this year from both parties are likely to be abortion and the economy, The N&O previously reported.

“A lot of the division you see right now starts at the government level,” Reives, of Chatham County, said. “If suddenly the government was into the solution, instead of interested in just creating more of a problem, I think it becomes a more attractive profession.”

Reives said he wishes that the government would “stop demonizing the institution [of public education] and recognize that it’s here.”

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at https://campsite.bio/underthedome or wherever you get your podcasts.

This story was originally published August 25, 2022 1:37 PM.

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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers North Carolina state government and politics at The News & Observer. She previously covered Durham, and has received the McClatchy President’s Award, NC Open Government Coalition Sunshine Award and several North Carolina Press Association awards, including for politics and investigative reporting.

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