An estimated 10,000 educators will meet in Chicago for the National Education Association’s 149th Representative Assembly starting Thursday. Among those that will be in attendance at the six-day convention is Jackie Hicks, President of the South Carolina Education Association.
The delegates will be discussing a number of issues, including the view that political leaders in a number of states are targeting educators’ salaries and benefits as being responsible for the need to cut budgets. The NEA says that stance threatens students’ right to get a solid public school education. Hicks says, in her mind, there is concerted effort to abolish public school education in this country fueled by a handful of billionaires.
Hicks says leaders of this movement are pushing for vouchers and tax breaks to push public education dollars to private schools; schools in which they could include and exclude certain students.
Hicks say there are thousands of highly skilled, dedicated public school teachers in South Carolina and across the country. For them teaching is a calling, but having a calling doesn’t mean they should not be fairly compensated. Hicks say a large majority of these teachers are women.
The U.S. Department of Education has threatened to cut $111 million in special education funding for South Carolina, an amount that matches state cuts over the past few years that the D.O.E. believes were unjustified. Hicks says state lawmakers have sent a message with their previous cuts that special education programs are not a priority, so the federal government is simply following their lead. She said that will undercut the progress that has been made in the state over the past several years.
Hicks says if South Carolina is going to prepare all of its youth for prosperous futures; the state would fully realize its potential for future economic growth. Hicks says it’s time for parents, educators , lawmakers, community and business leaders to all pull in the same direction to do what’s best for the public education system in South Carolina. Hicks says over the past decade South Carolina has made progress in a number of areas including lowering the school dropout rate, but that progress will not be maintained or improved upon without the resources needed to prepare students for the challenges that await them in the future job market.