NC teachers navigate uncertainty around budget, new laws' impact on staff, students

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Thursday, August 17, 2023
Teachers navigate new uncertainty around budget, legislation
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There's new uncertainty for teachers in North Carolina following the Governor's veto of SB 49 -- the Parents' Bill of Rights -- was overridden, and as the state's budget continues to stall.

NORTH CAROLINA (WTVD) -- There's new uncertainty for teachers in North Carolina after the Governor's veto of SB 49 -- the Parents' Bill of Rights -- was overridden, and as the state's budget continues to stall.

SB 49 prohibits any curriculum on gender identity and sexuality through fourth grade and requires teachers to tell parents if their child changes their pronouns.

"The more you require them to do reporting, the less they're going to be teaching," said Dyson Hepting, a former teacher with Wake County Public Schools.

Hepting says in his time as an educator, he found communication with parents was crucial, but has concerns this legislation might further deplete an already-strained workforce.

"I don't think that teachers want to keep things from parents or vice versa," Hepting said. "I think we all want better communication but some of the legislation, I don't think they're thinking through the logistics of how that's really going to work in the classroom."

Some parents, however, are calling the override a victory. Brooke Medina works at the conservative Locke Foundation in Raleigh and is the mother of four. She says SB 49 is about keeping parents in the loop.

"I think this bill is really about accountability and transparency and an invitation for parents to be involved at the table," Medina said.

RELATED | NC Legislature overrides 6 governor vetoes, putting measures into law

She added that one of the reasons she chose private schools for her kids was because they allowed her to be more involved in their education.

"When something is clearly spelled out like it is in the Parents Bill of Rights, that gives me comfort that I am going to be invited to the table to discuss these things," Medina said.

In response to the veto override, Governor Cooper criticized the General Assembly, which has yet to pass a final budget that would include promised raises for teachers.

"These are the wrong priorities, especially when they should be working nights and weekends if necessary to get a budget passed by the end of the month," the Governor said in part, in a statement.

Longtime Wake County teacher Rodney Obaigbena says the holdup isn't doing the profession any favors.

"People are already not entering the field. And when you look at this is just another barrier to entry," he said.

Obaigbena, who's worked in WCPSS for nearly 10 years, says he wants to see prioritized more but isn't overly optimistic.

"I learned a long time ago that, you know, politicians don't have feelings. They have interests and at the end of the day, what's in an interest is what they're going to focus on," he said.