‘People are not happy about this’ Educators encouraged by Moral Monday fervor

Teachers and school supporters demonstrated  outside the Legislative Building.
Teachers and school supporters demonstrated outside the Legislative Building.

SALISBURY — Rowan County residents were among thousands of protesters who gathered for the last Moral Monday protest held in Raleigh.

Ron Turbyfill, of Landis, attended the rally last week with his wife, Kim. They both have had 30-year careers in education.

“We’re both really concerned and upset about what the legislature has done,” he said.

Turbyfill retired in 2008 as the principal of Hanford Dole Elementary School. He has returned to work since then, including as an exceptional children’s teacher in the Cabarrus County School System last year.

His wife, Kim, retired from North Rowan Middle School as a media specialist.

“It’s really a career Kim and I loved so much,” Turbyfill said. “Every teacher puts their heart and soul into it. ... But the very foundational benefits of being a teacher are being stripped away.”

His concerns echo those of many who have spoken out against the Republican-led General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory.

The budget, which the governor signed, includes no raises for teachers or any state employees. It stops pay increases for teachers who earn master’s degrees ­— a milestone both Turbyfill and his wife reached by going to school part-time while working.

“Also, the revocation of tenure is something I think is very damaging to the profession,” he said. “Not having the security of a tenured teacher, I think, is going to keep a lot of young people out of the profession.”

Instead, teachers who sign one-year to four-year contracts will be eligible for merit pay raises given by their superintendents.

The budget also cuts funding for teacher assistants, adds funding for school resource officers in certain schools, allows schools to use armed volunteers for protection and sets aside money to help low-income students to go private schools.

Turbyfill said his younger son, Lane, is just starting his own career in education. Last year, he began working in the media center at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Kannapolis.

“I’m afraid for him, and for other young teachers we know, because they’re definitely not going to have the career we had,” Turbyfill said.

He estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 people were at the rally, which he and his wife attended with the girlfriend of their oldest son, Lee.

“The area was absolutely packed,” Turbyfill said. “Jenna (Lee’s girlfriend) told us she thought it was the biggest crowd she’s seen. ... I think this was her sixth Moral Monday.”

Board members from the Rowan County Association of Educators also attended the protest rally and march.

The group met at Halifax Mall in Raleigh and walked about 10 or 12 blocks from the General Assembly building to the governor’s mansion. Many were dressed in red and held signs criticizing the state lawmakers’ decision.

Then, they gathered by a stage and heard several speakers, “most of which were clergy,” Turbyfill said.

“Really, the group was not just about education concerns,” Turbyfill said. “Voting rights and women’s rights were part of the protest.”

Turbyfill said this is the first time since high school that he has participated in a rally or protest like this.

“It was encouraging that so many people took the time to drive from all over the state to be there, and that there’s that much interest in education,” he said.

He said state legislators had officially finished their business the previous Friday, so he doesn’t know how many of them were still in Raleigh.

Turbyfill said he is hoping that two things will come of the protest.

“One, that it will demonstrate to the legislature that people are not happy about this,” he said. “Second, that it encourages people to express their opinions, and that it reminds them of what has happened when the legislators are up for election in 2014.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation

Facebook: facebook.com/Karissa.SalisburyPost

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