A Letter from NC Teacher Tori Angelotti

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The following is from Tori Angelotti, a former Asheville Teacher of the Year, who feel frustrated and disrespected by politicians in Raleigh who refuse to support public education. 

Hi, I’m Tori Angelotti. I’m a teacher with 16 years of experience, the last six of which have been right here in Asheville. I’m proud to have earned the 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year Award from the Asheville City Schools. I love teaching, but after years and years of cuts, the politicians in Raleigh have made it harder and harder to keep doing what I love. It seems like the people currently representing us in Raleigh don’t consider education to be a top priority. I keep hearing about the tax breaks they are handing out for wealthy people and corporations, but I see with my own eyes the lack of materials and textbooks in our classrooms. Even when the politicians in control of the General Assembly seem to be doing something about education, I don’t know if I can trust them.

I don’t think I can trust the politicians in Raleigh because they said they would preserve funding for teachers’ assistants but now, school systems across the state are having to cut TA positions because the state budget cut over $100 million in TA funding. I don’t know if I can trust them because they said they were giving teachers a 7% raise and later we found out they were taking longevity pay that teachers had already earned and using it to artificially inflate that figure. As if that weren’t enough, the salary increase for some of our most experienced teachers ended up being as low as three-tenths of one percent. When they are using budget gimmicks like that at every turn in their talk about education, can you really blame me for being skeptical?

In the latest budget, our district lost funding for the equivalent of 11 Teaching Assistants. Think of it this way: there may be 200 K-3 students in Asheville who've lost the benefit of an additional person to help with reading, writing and math. We’re being told that the district is finding the money to cover some of these TAs, but from where? What other support services or crucial classroom supplies are being cut to cover this loss? These teachers’ assistants are a vital part of ensuring our children get the educational base they need to be successful students in later grades.

This legislature has also taken away pay for teachers who obtain advanced degrees. Why would legislators tell teachers that being a lifelong learner has no merit? How do we instill a belief in the power of knowledge to our students when our legislators are telling us it's worthless?

When I consider the educational principles that our state was founded on, it looks like North Carolina is abandoning ship. Our own state constitution says that "the people have the right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right." How is cutting teachers’ assistants guarding and maintaining the right to an education? How is slashing textbook funding so badly that we can’t provide each student with a textbook doing your duty on education?

These questions are especially difficult to answer when you consider that we could be funding education better if we weren’t losing billions of dollars in reckless tax giveaways for the wealthy and corporations. Why do people who can afford a plane getting a tax break? Why do alcohol and tobacco distributors get a kickback for filing reports on time?

I’m afraid the answer is priorities. The politicians in control in Raleigh don’t consider education to be a top priority. As a teacher, my number one priority is ensuring our students have what they need to succeed. And the first thing they need to succeed is new representatives in Raleigh.

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