State Rep. Mark Brody, a Republican representing Anson and Union counties, is drawing a backlash over his Facebook post that says a teachers' rally in Raleigh set for this Wednesday is being promoted by "teacher union thugs."
Brody wrote: "Let's call this what it is, Teacher Union thugs want to control the education process! I am speaking up because I don't want Union County schools, and for that matter all NC school systems, to turn into Chicago. Let the Union thugs get their way now and we are half way there."
Brody, a contractor from Monroe, posted his remarks Friday to express his frustration that Union County schools will be closed May 16 because more than half the teachers have asked for the day off to go to Raleigh. At least 35 school districts that serve more than a third of the states' public school student have chosen to close schools because so many teachers plan to attend a massive rally at the State Legislative Building to demand better pay and more support for public schools.
The Republican-led General Assembly has given raises and bonuses to teachers in recent years, but most of the increase has been eaten up by inflation and higher health insurance premiums. Veteran teachers, especially, have received paltry raises.
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Republicans have controlled the state's education spending since taking over the General Assembly following the 2010 election. Since then, the legislature has favored tax cuts over increasing public school funding. North Carolina ranks 37th nationally in teacher pay and 39th in per-pupil spending.
Nonetheless, Brody said teachers should be grateful for what they've received from the legislature. He said their frustration should be directed at the North Carolina Association of Educators and local and state education officials.
He wrote: "Your biggest legislative support comes from the Republican State legislature. Your greatest enemy for the causes you strive for is the Teacher Union, your incompetent and/or spineless local administrations and, the biggest problem of them all, the NC Department of Public Instruction."
The NCAE, which is organizing Wednesday's rally, is not a union. It is an advocacy group for teachers and other school workers. But that hasn't stopped Republican lawmakers from frequently calling the NCAE a union. North Carolina is a "right to work" state. Workers cannot be required to pay union dues and union membership here is among the lowest in the nation.
Brody praised teachers who have chosen not participate in the rally as teachers who will "stand up to the bullies and self serving thugs of the Teachers Union and believe in showing up for work."
The state representative's Facebook post drew a strong response with 1,400 comments as of Saturday afternoon, mostly critical.
One wrote: "This guy has no conceptual understanding of how much time and effort teachers put into their students and classroom. Teachers aren’t begging for incredible salaries.... they just want enough to be able to live!! This is absolute ignorance on a topic that you’ve probably done very little research on."
Another wrote: "You, sir, are short sighted. Teachers demonstrate, protest, and strike at the time they do because that is the ONLY time legislators pay attention. If you funded public education well all along, LISTENING to these highly-trained professionals when they told you what the children needed in the first place, teachers would not be upset."
But some comments agreed with Brody's complaint that teachers should protest on their own time. One person wrote:
"Going to Raleigh to protest Wed.. Union had 1000 teacher request off for it... to protest??? What about teaching??! Am I missing something or have I been given wrong information?? I would NOT be a happy camper if my sons teacher was not at school because they are protesting! Protest during the Summer when you have off,or during Christmas break or Spring break!!"