This week, Moral Monday took an interesting turn; instead of ending in arrests, the evening ended with a civil discussion and an eerie march through the State Legislative Building. Monday evening in front of Sen. Phil Berger’s office 15 protestors camped out in the name of education reform. When the building closed, the small group expected arrest but instead were met with a visit by the President Pro Tem of the Senate.
At around 8 p.m. Sen. Berger’s staff pulled the couches into a circle in the hallway outside his office. The meeting between the two groups lasted nearly two hours. Teachers and college students alike voiced concerns and shared their experiences from the classroom.
According to news reports Bryan Proffitt, a teacher from Durham, lead a discussion in the challenges that teachers face in being responsible for student test scores. According to him, it is inconceivable to have cuts in other areas in education to make way for teacher pay raises.
It was reported that protestors continued to ask Berger why he cut money for teacher assistants and shared their concerns about reading test mandates for third graders. Even though he made no commitment to policy change, Berger addressed their concerns before the meeting ended and he agreed to try and schedule another meeting at the end of the month.
Various accounts of the meeting have pointed to a 26-page amendment passed out by Berger with the NAACP’s “14-point agenda,” emphasizing on how much money the demands the protestors were endorsing would actually cost. He pointed out that in order to meet their demands, there would have to be a significant tax increase, which is something that is non-negotiable to many of the other citizens in the state. This, of course, was met with outcries of denial by the protestors. It seems the protestors do not take into consideration the difficulty of getting the legislature to agree upon and pass any amendment or law. With the ridiculous fees and fiscally harmful side effects of the legislation their movement is proposing, it is simply not anywhere near reasonably feasible.
Monday’s meeting between the protestors and Senator Berger is the first of its kind since the rallies began last year. The rallies began under William Barber, head of the NAACP. The earlier rallies saw larger crowds. Many believe the largest crowd was last year’s education rally held at the end of last July.
This week’s education rally (and the others before it) didn’t seem to match the numbers or enthusiasm of last year’s protests. Looking upon the crowd, not only did the number of participants seem less but the crowd projected no feeling of inspiration. They had their signs and the chants were yelled, but there seemed to be no true fire or passion among the masses. What was supposed to be the “high point” of the protest can merely be described as an eerie walk through the legislative building. It seems as if now Moral Monday can best be compared to an orchestra that seems to have a promising beginning, but with no ability to reach the high crescendo needed to make a complete and magnificent performance.