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Joint | June 9, 2014 | Press Room | Moral Monday Press Conference

Full MP3 Audio File

We’re back here today to stand with our teachers, our school staff, students K through 12 and college, and all those alumni like myself who went to public schools and want to support our public schools here in North Carolina. So to get us rolling, I’m going to turn it over now to Reverend William Barber II, who is our proud and faithful leader in this Moral Mondays movement that has just kept on moving and pulling all of us along. Reverend Barber. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you. Everybody that’s a parent or grandparent, uncle or aunt, raise your hand. You’ve got children that you care about, great. Anybody out there that’s under 18, raise your hand. Where are you? Under 18. Under 18? Come on up here. Come on up. Give them a hand. Come on. Come on. Your sister can’t… is that your sister? No. You can come with her. Those that are under 18, come on. Come right over there. Today the entire focus of the Moral Monday effort is on public education. Let me make a few comments and then we’ll take questions from the media afterwards. I have some good friends who are here – a teacher, a student, Doctor Tyson is on his way. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I’m right here. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Come on in, Doctor Tyson. There you go. There you go, great. That’s what I’m talking about. We can’t be loud and wrong. That’s right. And we have with us the Rt. Reverend Bishop Curry with the Episcopal Church who’s here with us today, and not only will he address us at this press conference, but he will share his moral voice at the larger rally. I want the members of this General Assembly, particularly those who lead the so-called supermajority – I still think the people are majority, but the so-called supermajority – to stop being political extremists and be good Republicans. I’m not asking them to be Democrats. I want them to be good historical Lincoln Republicans, because if they would be that, they would not be passing the policies they are currently engaged in. Now how do I know that? Well let me read for you a statement from a good Lincoln Republican written in 1869, and it ought not be – and I didn’t get this one from Doctor Tyson; I got this from another book – but it ought not be that people 145 years ago who were leaders in this state had more sense – common sense, educational sense and political sense – than the leadership today. Because each succeeding generation, I was told by my parents, you ought to do a little bit better than we did. I was taught that. My mama said “Now look: I went here, but you ought to go a little further.” My daddy said “I was able to do this, but you ought to go a little further,” and in our family, it’s a sad commentary when you stand on the shoulders of greatness but then act in a very sorry way. 1869, this is what a Lincoln Republican said – in fact, a Lincoln Republican Congregationalist preacher, because preachers were at the forefront of shaping educational policy in North Carolina. Name was Samuel Ashe, and he said this: “Many citizens entertain erroneous views with regard to money expended for public instruction. Money thus dispersed is not capital sunk or a loss. Money to public education is an investment. Taxes for the support of schools are provisions for the most permanent…

And profitable of all internal improvement. And intelligent people constitute a powerful state. And educated people bear public burdens with ??? and liberality and equanimity. Then he said it is honestly recommended that the general assembly, this is 1869, sole increase the appropriation for public schools that the wants of every township shall be so met that no portion of the population shall be long destitute of the privileges of education. I just wish that Berger and Tillis and McCrory would be good republicans or stop lying and saying that the republicans are back in office after a hundred years of absence. That’s all we want. And no government, no leadership, I think in this house that I know of, and we’re still trying to get all the facts on but we’re pretty clear on this, has ever gone backwards in the way this legislature is going. Even with the problems of segregation and all the other stuff we’ve come from, normally it has been the course of action for each succeeding body of leadership in this general assembly to go forward. In fact, we used to pride ourselves in North Carolina by producing governors who would call education ???. It used to be you couldn’t win an office this high in North Carolina if you had a disdain for public education and I’m about to suggest it ought to be like that again. Today’s press conference is a teach in so let me close here. Samuel ???, Reverend Samuel ???, and Reverend J.W. Hood, an African American ??? Zion preacher whose denomination produced both Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman, helped to coin this language that has existed in North Carolina’s state constitution since 1868. Article 1, section 15, it’s not a long sentence, but the depth of it is deeper than the Atlantic Ocean. The people, notice it didn’t say children because at that time some people who weren’t children hadn’t been educated because they had been former slaves, so when they wrote this ??? they made sure to cover everybody. They said the people have a right to the privilege of education and it is the duty of the state, that is anybody in this state or whose elected to supervise or to govern in the state, it is the duty of the state to guard and maintain that right. Tillis doesn’t have the authority to undermine it. Berger doesn’t have the authority to undermine it. McCrory doesn’t have the authority to undermine it. ??? doesn’t have enough money to undermine it. If you want to undermine public education go to another state, find another country but here in North Carolina it’s a constitutional right and we’ll fight you every day. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Feels real good to hear that. Next we have Doctor Tim Tyson whose going to come and give us a little bit more of the history of public education in our state and just how destructive these policies have been to our children. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Perhaps the worst indictment of public education..

Public Education in North Caroling. A number of extremists in the general assembly today have attended them. (laughter) (clapping) When I see what they are voting for, I just asking myself, did you not have a teacher that cared about you? (clapping) Did Ms. Monique really mean that you should work hard and always look for a chance to rob the school book fund? (clapping, chatter) Somehow, I think not. I want to talk today about last year’s larson. The so called “opportunity scholarships”. Now, the vouchers don’t hold very well because people know what they are and don’t like them. So, the opportunity scholarships. Now, first and foremost, the North Carolina constitution says that tax money, and I quote, “shall be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools.” (clapping, chatter). Vouchers are designed to give tax money to a system of schools that is anything but uniform. That is not free. It is not public. The opportunity the extremists really want is to extend vouchers to all students and to therefore subsidize these private cul-de-sac academies that they dream of. They’ve been dreaming of ever since Brown V board. And, they want the world with a fence around it. They’d also like for you to pay for the fence thank you very much. (clapping) Worst of all, vouchers do not increase school performance. As careful and sweeping studies in Cleveland and Milwaukee have shown. Vouchers take much needed money from public schools. Ten million dollars this year, and that’s just the beginning. Why would you shift public money to private school when we’re already 48 in purview? Why would you shift tax dollars into private hands when we’re losing teachers to Texas? Why should we pay families to abandon our public schools? Pay people to do it. They have a right to leave, but should we really pay for it? Why should tax payers foot the bill for somebody else's private school tuition? (clapping) It’s like an old friend of mine used to say, if you want the children downstream to have clean water, you better get the hogs out of the creek. (clapping) I hope our public school teachers who had former students in the general assembly will escort them to the blackboard and have them write a hundred times “I will not give tax payers dollars to private corporations”. (clapping) [SPEAKER CHANGES] Now, we’re going to hear from one of our moral leaders on this issue. Michael Prairie(??) [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you. Thank you Dr. Cabra (??). Let me just say three things that might add a moral dimension to what can be considered immoral legislative activity. Education and public education. Three things. It is a divine right, it is a human right, and it is for the common good. (clapping) Just briefly, and I’ll say more later, education is a divine right because if I read my Bible. I’m just a country preacher. If I read my Bible correctly, it says in Psalms 119, that your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light on my head. It says in the first chapter of John’s gospel in the New Testament that all light comes from God that enlightens everyone. Which is a way of saying that all knowledge, all truth, has its ultimate source in God. If we are…

. . . created in the image and likeness of God, we are meant by virtue of our God-created humanity to share the divine light, the divine knowledge, education is a divine right. (applause) Not only is it a divine right, public education which makes equal a quality education available to all is a human right. It is enshrined and has been enshrined in the constitution of this state. It is implied and implicit in the Declaration of Independence that helped to establish this great nation. And the supreme court of the state of North Carolina said it was so in 1997. Education is a human and a civil right. Equal and quality education for all children, not just for the elite, equal and quality education for all children, because all children are children of the most high God. And I would close just by simply saying it is not only a divine right and a human right, but it is a divine right and a human right for the common good. ?? as I need to, either you will train and teach children in the way they should go with folk like these teachers or you will have to hire more prison guards and build more prisons. It's that simple. It is that simple. We will either save the children or we will damn a society. The choice is ours now and we must save our children. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Now we're going to hear from one of the teachers themselves. Brian Crawford from Durham Public School. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Good afternoon everyone. I'm Brian Crawford, and I'm a ten-year veteran teacher here in North Carolina Public schools and a proud member of the organized 20/20 caucus. And I'm here today to school the North Carolina general assembly. Now last week the general assembly began to eliminate the common core standards and replace them with something that they developed. So let's take a cue from them. And let's develop a set of standards that the majority of people in this state want and can live by. All right. Here they are. Standard one. We want clean air, clean water, and protection for our public health. On that standard, teachers up here, what would they get? F, F. Standard two: we want health care, unemployment support, and the fifteen-dollar minimum wage. Again I think it's safe to say F. Standard three: We want you to eliminate the barriers to voting, marriage, and other civil rights that we fought so hard to win. F. Standard four: we want a vibrant, well-funded public school system that not only prepares young people for the next steps of their lives, but also allows them to experience joy, build relationships, and grow into the kinds of human beings that would not hurt people the way this general assembly is. What do y'all think on that one? F. Standard five: In order to get these things without taking away from any of the others, we want you to tax the people who can afford it, and give some relief to those of us who can't. Because teachers in this state refuse to stand by a system that would pay us and rob our teaching assistants, and our students. So if these were our standards right now, they'd all be bringing home nothing but Fs, and they could expect a whole bunch of calls to their mamas from us. So since we're teachers and we can't stand, can't stand to sit back and watch anybody fail, here are the things that we're going to be doing over the next couple of years to make sure that we have

legislature full of straight A students. One, we're going to call you and visit you here and at home. We're going to sit in your offices and occupy your buildings until you repent, repeal, and restore. We're going to use traditional and social media to shine the light of the whole country on what it is you all are doing here right now. We're going to knock on the doors of our neighbors and your neighbors and our coworkers and their coworkers and we're going to build organizations to fight you. And ultimately, yes if you make us, we will kick you out of class. So these aren't things that teachers are used to doing. We're generally a pleasant and rule following bunch, but when you attack our students, when you threaten our schools and our communities and their families, and you bully us and our coworkers then you better be prepared for what's going to happen next. Forward together. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Not one step back. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I have to say, I feel pretty confident if our classrooms are full of people like Brian. I don't know about you all, but. Alright and now I'd like to hear Keanu Rivers, who I'm sure you've heard about Elizabeth City State and the ways in which they were targeted in the Senate budget recently. Well, we have an Elizabeth City State representative here to speak to you all today. Right after Keanu we're going to have Emilio Vicente, who's a college senior at UNC Chapel Hill to speak to you as well. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'm Keanu Rivers, a sophomore at Elizabeth City State University. And though my school may no longer be under attack, public education is still under attack. And I as a student, refuse to sit by idly and watch these politicians make these backroom deals. I refuse to see these systems attack day in and day out by politicians, who just as we've seen, receive straight F's across the board. And I as a student, know I have a voice and my voice will be heard and as we say at Elizabeth City State University, Viking Pride, Viking Pride, Viking Pride. [SPEAKER CHANGES] My name is Emilio Vicente and I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as a UNC student I sit in solidarity with Elizabeth State University. I think it's unacceptable for the General Assembly to look at our universities as either making profits or not making profits. We're not in that business. We're in the business of educating the future of this state and I know that we can only do that if we make ourselves accessible and not just look at which universities aren't functioning. Which ones are underfunded and it all goes back to how much funding the General Assembly has given the UNC education system overall. It's severely underfunded. Since 2011 over almost half a billion dollars has been cut from the UNC system's budget. That's a lot of money and what that does is it makes universities increase their tuition and it makes it unaccessible for students who want to come to our universities. UNC Chapel Hill, for example, out of state students face a 12.3% increase for this coming year and that's over 3,000 dollars in tuition money which a lot of people cannot afford. I think of one of my best friends at UNC, who had to take the semester off last year because she couldn't afford to pay the tuition increases for last year and so I think of those people. Of that friend and other friends who are going to be impacted by these tuition increases. And at the end of the day, we're not talking about numbers, we're talking about real people who are going to be affected. Like the reverend said, education is a human right, and again I think I stand in solidarity with all of the teachers who

Their tenure potentially being taken away and teacher assistants who also are potentially going to lose their jobs so thank you so much. [SPEAKER CHANGE] I have this picture in my study from a cartoonist and it shows the feet of black people and the feet of white people and the feet of country people and the feet of rural people and the feet of students and the feet of people who are straight and the feet of people who are gay and it has a legislator over that saying uh-oh they’re starting to get in step. Are there any questions from the media? ??? Yes mam. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Thank you for the opportunity. I drove down today from Yancey County North Carolina, the high mountains of North Carolina, and there’s a lot of stereotyping about the mountains. We’re often lumped in, just pretty much with the regressive politics, but that’s not the case. What is this case is that it takes a lot to get mountain people stirred up. We know how to literally make do with nothing. I came from farm people, I’ve seen my grandmothers and grandfathers plough with mules. I’ve seen them make the choices of what children would go to school and what children would stay home. I’ve seen schools in our tiny communities from Bee Log to Clearmont, the schools anchor our communities. The schools anchor our communities, they’re the heart of our communities. Education is the tried and true way out of poverty. Education is the way that you can better yourself, that you can better take care of yourself and your family. What we are seeing now in this legislation is not valuing, it’s not valuing education or valuing people. What we’re seeing is a disconnect, at least from those of us in the mountains, that worked so hard despite the fact that like in many areas, our textiles have left, our furniture manufacturing has left, agriculture is on its way out, although we worked very hard to help people transition into ways you can stay on your family farm and make a living. This of all times is when we need ways to educate our children. This of all times, you know we have cut everything from the school lunchroom programs, and I work twice a week with a group of high school students that many of you know the story. Their school lunch is the meal they get, every day. So we have defunded the preschools where for a lot of moms if they’re lucky enough to piece two and three jobs together is a way that they’re sure their children are safe. From all the issues that are happening, and I’ll end with this because I’m also not stupid about fracking and they’re already coming around, particularly over in Madison county asking people to sell their mineral rights. So if you don’t think it’s on our doorsteps, it takes a lot to drag me out of the mountains because those of you that’s been to my home know that it’s a circle of trees. If you come to my house you’re not going anywhere else, there’s nothing past it. I have come here today because I feel the urgency and I’m honored Reverend Barber gave me a chance to speak and I can’t speak for all of the mountains, but I can speak for all of the mountains around education. I would ask the legislators to listen to us and to let us have a voice in the decisions they’re making and to let us educate our children so that they can have a better life. [SPEAKER CHANGE] For purposes of this teaching that we’re doing, I want to do something while you’re here. She mentioned that many of the children that come to your school, the only meal they have is what they get at school, and I want to be taught, in the mountains that’s probably not predominantly black children? Because see that’s the other thing that they use to fool us in the south.

When the reality is, whether you’re black and poor in the south or white and poor in the south, you’re hurting if you’re just poor. If people take public education there may be some other disparities based on race but it’s important that people know that and that’s why mountain populism and civil rights activism are very closely linked. That’s why when Dr. King wanted to fight against poverty he went to the urban centers but he also went to Appalachia, the mountains, and when we get mountain folk and civil rights activist stirred up that’s a little stirring. You know Sunday was Pentecost and somewhere I read it said when they all got in one accord and they were in one room with one focus that some stirring happened, a little wind and fire and even people that normally didn’t talk to each other found a way to communicate and then the bible said they ended up having all things in common and there were great and mighty acts that happened and so last year ??? began during Pentecost, this year we’re continuing in the season of Pentecost and I want to thank you because we need to make this a phrase. They want to overfrack you and undereducate you. Questions from the media? [SPEAKER CHANGE] Reverend Barber? [SPEAKER CHANGE] Which media? [SPEAKER CHANGE] Anne Helms with the Charlotte Observer. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Yes mam. [SPEAKER CHANGE] What the legislators like to talk about is the teacher raise proposal, can you talk about whether there’s some value of that and is that costing you any support from teachers? [SPEAKER CHANGE] No not really because teachers know when their children are playing games. Teachers know when their children had somebody else do their homework and these legislators had somebody else do their homework called ALEC, that’s what ??? says on the board. They aren’t passing positive based on what’s good for North Carolina and for teachers, they’re passing positive based on what’s good for that political persuasion, but think about how wrong it is. First they cut money from education. They drive us to 46th in the nation in per teacher spending and 48th in the nation in per pupil spending, so bad that now we’re less than Mississippi I believe, there are only two other states in the union that are lower than us. Then after that they cut the money and when they could have given teachers raises, instead of doing that they take ten million dollars and try to give it to private schools and then the judge says you can’t do that. So now they’ve broke the bank, they have a hole in the budget, and because we’re marching, because we’re winning in court, and because there’s a movement, and because after doing that their poll numbers drop, I believe one study said legislature was down about 19%-20% in terms of favorability. Now they want to offer teachers a Trojan horse and claim that they care so much about teachers so now what they’re going to do is one thing a teacher will not allow you to do in a classroom, they want to split people against each other. They want to take from the teachers’ assistants, claim they’re giving it to the teachers to try to split the teachers’ assistants from the teachers. They want to try to split the bus drivers and support staff from the teachers, then they want to split the older teachers from the newer teachers and then on top of all of that as though teachers don’t have any sense at all, they want to say we’ll give you a raise with money that may not even be reoccurring if you’ll give up your tenure. Maybe Berger didn’t read the fine print when he gave the quote from that study that was wrong that the news observer just reported on and he tried to use that study to justify cutting teachers’ assistants but he best believe we read the fine print. We know exactly what’s going on and that’s why teachers and the forward together ??? movement and pastors, all of us, are in sync. You see we know what works. We already know what works so we know when people are playing games. If you want to have great public schools here’s what you have to do, this is proven, it’s statistical, it’s studied. Number one, you’ve got to stop re-segregation and promote diversity.

Number two, you have to secure equity in funding and make sure you be 21st century schools for our children. Number three, you have to hire, retain, and pay well high quality teachers for every child. With the support that's necessary. Number four, you have to have small class sizes. Number five, you have to focus on Math, Science, History, and Reading. Number six, you have to promote community and parental involvement and number seven you have to eliminate the inequities in suspensions and graduation rates bases on race, based on ethnicity, and based on class. You have to do all those things together and anything other then that is just a trojan horse and we're not falling for it. I want to have one of the teachers to talk about that since you asked about the teachers and I don't know if you were in here when we talked about, the legislators are not starting here with the Constitution. That's the problem. The Constitution is clear that education is a constitutional right and it must be maintained and paid for by our government. That's not optional. They instead are starting with these ALEC and Tea Party play books and trying to bring that foreign notion of education into North Carolina that does not work in our Constitution, does not qualify or allow it to stand. [Speaker Change] I think the Reverend said most of what I would say. I think that the budget question is an essential one, because they continue to shrink the budget by giving tax breaks to wealthy people then they're going to have to continue to have to make cuts, so what they're going to have to do is keep posing these false solutions that the Reverend spoke to about robbing Peter to pay Paul and we're not going to go for that, because the teachers in this state are not going to go for that. All across the state we've already been talking about it. The other thing that is essential that we put into this conversation and what does process rights actually mean. When people say we need tenure because we need to get rid of bad teachers, the state law already says that the first thing listed in the requirements when you get career status is that we can be removed because of bad job satisfaction, because of poor performance. If you have quality administrators you can get rid of a bad teacher any time you want. The problem isn't that we have bad teachers in schools, the problem is that we're driving good ones out of it. Right? The other thing that's essential about due process rights is that I couldn't feel comfortable standing here without due process rights. I'm kind of a trouble maker so I might have done it anyway, but I've got a whole school of people that feel exactly the same way that I feel, but they're not standing here today. They're saying I don't even know if I can even go to moral Mondays. You have principals that are threatening teachers that if they even go to moral Mondays, they're going to lose their jobs. That's not even just an attack on Democracy, we also have situations where you have administrators, and teachers sometimes, that bully kids or treat kids badly or give kids resources that they don't need. If I'm too scared for my job security to speak up in defense of my students, because I can be arbitrarily fired whenever, then I'm not actually doing my job. That goes for speaking for lots of kinds of students, and it goes for lots of kinds of teachers. Our schools are incredibly homophobic environments for our teachers that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. If those folks can be dismissed just because you they are, that's not Democracy and we don't have the kind of teachers that we need. It's a scam. It's undemocratic. That is who they really want to get and they'll dangle the raise to get that, but we're not going for it. [Speaker change] Remember too, the difference, the public difference and the public reference. The public record difference of our movement. The moral foward together, moral monday movement, brings people together. Black, white, latino, asian, gay, straight, young, old, labor, business people, Republicans, Democrats, Independants, mountain, coast, Piedmont. That's who we are. On the record, Mr. Tillis has said his way of governing is to divide and conquer. It's not my words. That's his words. That's his words to divide and conquer and years ago where that comes from is a guy by the name of Kevin Phillips who organized that white southern strategy for Richard Nixon, who said in politics, all you got to do is find out who doesn't like each other and turn them against each other. We're not going to be turned on each other. We're turning to each other.

[clapping] Speaker: So that is where we stand on that matter. We are very clear. We have been very clear, about what ought to be done in NC, and we fought when Democrats went off, and surely we fought when Democrats went off – we sued Democrats. Remember the Leandro case? NAACP and other folk were involved in that case, and the Supreme Court rule, regardless of party, every child has a right to a sound, basic quality education. We have been fighting to recover that money from the Leandro case that never fully come. So, there is no way in the world that we are going to fight those that are trying to do a little bit, then turn right around and not fight those that are trying to take the little bit that was done, and then take some more. It’s wrong what they are doing, and they know it’s wrong. It is an election season and they think they can dangle something in front of these teachers and fool them, somehow satisfy them, but it is not going to happen – it’s just not going to happen. Any others? All speakers that have to go, we ask Brother Gatewood, Raging Grannies, any speakers that need to get to the stage, we ask that you leave at this time. There are no more questions for persons of the media. Let’s make our way out to Halifax Mall. [clapping] Wait, that’s my fault, we have got Marshall’s. Go ahead Carey. Speaker 2: Thank you. Now you all know we are tying to do everything decent and in order, so no one is going out the back door, except the people he just told – go ahead, bye. Everybody else, we are going out this door… [congregation is leaving]