Several Charlotte Education Association members are concerned their students are not fully getting the help they need and have chosen to voice their concern by joining the statewide movement “Wear Red for Public Ed.” That participation, however, has been met with resistance from Charlotte Public Schools administrators.
Close to 50 current and former Charlotte Public Schools teachers, and members of the Michigan Education Association gathered in the Charlotte Upper Elementary School parking lot Wednesday, May 23 proudly wearing red shirts. The group took things a step further that morning, taking part in a planned “walk in,” in which they entered the building as one large group prior to the start of the school day. A similar walk in took place at Washington Elementary School the same morning.
The walk ins were the direct result of a memo teachers received from CPS Superintendent Mark Rosekrans and Board of Education president Lee Wheaton on Wednesday, May 9 that stated in part that “wearing clothing at work in support of a political cause,” goes against district policy.
“Political action and/or protest (including wearing certain T-shirts in support of a cause) is not allowed while at work, and the failure to ignore this rule could result in discipline,” the memo stated.
Several Charlotte teachers first took part in the Wear Red for Public Ed movement May 9. Rosekrans said no teachers have been disciplined for participating on May 9. He sent a second memo May 17 to clarify that teachers could wear any color t-shirt as a group as long as it did not contain any political message printed on it.
“This is about so much more than a shirt,” said Julie Davis, president of the Charlotte Education Association and teacher at Charlotte Upper Elementary School. “This is about making sure our kids get the support they need.”
The Wear Red for Public Ed movement was formed to promote the message that lawmakers should “value students, respect educators and fund our schools.” Davis said the message also needs to be heard by Charlotte administrators.
“Our district is sitting at a 17 percent fund equity,” Davis said. “That’s money we could be spending on students and we’re not. We need social workers, counselors, and mental health workers. We need behavior specialists. (The administration) could fix this and remain fiscally responsible at 12 percent fund equity.”
Rosekrans said the Charlotte Public Schools Board of Education sets the policy that the district maintain at least a 15 percent fund equity in case of emergencies.
“We do have an adopted budget for the 2018-19 school year with a $300,000 deficit that the board approved May 14,” Rosekrans said. “With that, one of the pieces is a student support services position. Do we want more supports for our students? Absolutely. As of right now we don’t have those positions.”
Rosekrans said the district will have to utilize some of its fund equity to make up that $300,000 deficit facing the district’s budget for the next school year.
Davis said teachers will continue to wear red on Wednesdays throughout the remainder of the school year.
“We’re not asking for raises or more money,” Davis said. “We want the kids to get the support they need. We’re standing together and standing firm,” Davis said. “This is our opportunity to tell our story.”
Rosekrans said teachers can wear coordinated colors as long as they do not contain political messages.
“I do believe that all of us believe increased public education is a valid and noble thing,” Rosekrans said. “We all want that.”