Group protests cuts to education in Forsyth Co.

(Walt Unks/Journal)
Kristen Downs and her children Will, 8, and C.J., 7, and Vienna Elementary teacher Jeni Sigmon and her son Dean Huffman are among the 40 participants in a silent protest sponsored by Forsyth County PTA and FCAE, Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Forsyth County Government Building.

(Walt Unks/Journal) Kristen Downs and her children Will, 8, and C.J., 7, and Vienna Elementary teacher Jeni Sigmon and her son Dean Huffman are among the 40 participants in a silent protest sponsored by Forsyth County PTA and FCAE, Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Forsyth County Government Building.

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Actions can often speak louder than words, but the parents, teachers and students who gathered outside the Forsyth County Government Center on Wednesday wanted to be sure that was the case – so they said nothing at all.

About 40 supporters of public education staged a silent protest to voice their displeasure with the newly-adopted state budget, which overhauled public school funding.

For 30 minutes during the lunch hour the protestors stood still and quiet, letting their presence and printed signs – “I STAND FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION” – do the talking.

“We’re here to support our teachers,” said Margaret Beaudry, a member of the Vienna Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association.

Beaudry stood with her twins, Rebecca and Benjamin, leaning against her and shading themselves from the heat. Beaudry said the kids will start third grade at the end of the month.

With so much school left for them, Beaudry said she’s concerned about the future of public schools.

“If we can’t take care of our teachers, how can we expect them to take care of our kids?”

The event was a joint effort between the state’s PTA and teacher groups, marking the first real involvement from the parent group in the 18-month long fight over the future of public education.

Donald Dunn of Winston-Salem is president of the North Carolina PTA.

He said the group wanted to send a message that it stands by teachers and is not content with the budget deal signed by Gov. Pat McCrory last week. Dunn said similar events were planned in all 100 counties Wednesday.

“We want to send a message to people in Raleigh,” Dunn said. “It’s not just affecting the five largest counties. It’s affecting everyone from the coast to the mountains.”

The N.C. Association of Educators, which has been vocal and staged numerous protests over the last year, partnered with the PTA group to continue voicing displeasure at the state budget.

The biggest issue is the teacher pay raise that gives larger raises to newer teachers than veteran teachers and cuts funding that would force school districts to choose between keeping teacher assistants and reducing class size.

“It affects parents and kids,” said Ann Petitjean, president of the Forsyth County Association of Teachers.

It affects grandparents, too, said Patricia Rhodes. She heard about the event from a co-worker on a local PTA board and joined the protest with three Mount Tabor students – her two grandchildren and an honorary one – in tow.

“I think parents and grandparents should take a stand for their students,” she said,

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