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Purple for Parents

The group that took unionizers to school in Arizona is now looking for a fight in North Carolina and it has its eyes set on the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE).

Purple for Parents started in Arizona as a social media campaign that wanted to give parents a vehicle to air their frustrations with teacher strikes, school closures, and the politicization of K-12 classrooms.

The group was formed in 2018 by Forest Moriarty leading up to the Arizona Education Association (AEA) teacher strike. Moriarty is the father of two special needs students and husband of an Arizona teacher who found himself fed up with the state’s teacher union politicizing the classroom and encouraging teachers to strike annually.

With the help of folks like former teacher Dusti Martin, the wife of former Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin, the group has gotten the attention of legislators and teachers alike. Using her political connections in the state, Dusti helped connect parents with elected officials in Arizona to promote more school choice freedom, improve financial transparency in education, and advocate for improved teacher benefits without the inherent politicization a teacher’s union brings about.

The group caught the eye of the nation this past year when they led a counter protest in Arizona during the AEA teacher march. The spread of this group’s popularity hasn’t been contained to Arizona.

Here in North Carolina, a few people gathered outside of this year’s NCAE protest to combat what they believe to be a strictly political rhetoric that has left the classroom in search of a far more political stage by encouraging teachers to “Opt-Out” of the NCAE.

“Opt-Out” event organizer Angela Humphries’ protest didn’t end on May 2 when classrooms were filled with sunburned teachers and bright-eyed students. Angela was contacted by a quickly growing national group that saw the momentum building in North Carolina: Purple for Parents.

The North Carolina chapter has officially launched their social media campaign to gain followers to tell the NCAE that the state’s parents won’t continue to tolerate the annual march and that teachers should choose to opt-out of the NCAE in support of less politicized classrooms. The North Carolina Purple for Parents chapter recruited over 400 members to a closed Facebook group in the first week.  

Upon having a friend recommend the group to me on Facebook, my mind flooded with questions like: What does this group hope to accomplish? Are they anti-teacher? Is this a home school group? So I did a little research and reached out to group leaders in North Carolina and Arizona to get their side of the story.

According to Angela Humphries, who is leading the North Carolina chapter, “This is exactly what North Carolina needs to give parents the courage to speak up and fight back a system that has been holding them hostage and swipes their opinions to the side.” Raising concern for the highly politicized nature of the NCAE rally on May 1, Angela also commented that “Red for Ed and various affiliates’ main concerns are to help elect Democrats and impose NEA ideas on public school systems.”

This seems like a highly political group of concerned parents with strong opinions.

While the group is anti-union and against politicizing the classroom, Purple for Parents isn’t anti-teacher as some might think. The group actually supports teacher pay increases through what it describes as “reasonable and financially responsible salaries and raises” for educators “based on performance standards and merit.”

According to their website, their mission is “empowering parents to get involved in their children’s education, taking charge of their rights as taxpayers and having access to the best schools the state has to offer.”

In layman’s terms, they want teachers paid fairly based on how well they perform.

This group is very much in favor of expanding school choice vouchers and scholarship programs like the NC Opportunity Scholarship program. Restricting these programs was one of the major legislative initiatives on the NCAE 2019 legislative agenda. This is just one of the places where Purple for Parents clashes with the NCAE.

Purple for Parents has six goals that are fairly straightforward: end politics in schools, get teachers more competitive funding based on performance, expand school choice options for families, equip schools with resource officers to promote safety in the classroom, and put an end to future school closures to advocate for political causes.

Will Purple for Parents make as big a difference as it has in Arizona? Will teachers get the pay raises they’re demanding? Will the NCAE see Medicaid expansion and less school choice? It’s too soon to say, but stay tuned. Whether you wear purple or red, next year’s teacher rally is just around the corner.

Chris West

Chris West teaches philosophy and economics at Thales Academy in Apex, NC. He holds degrees from Campbell University and Duke Divinity, and a professional certificate in Faith-Based Nonprofit Leadership from Wake Forest University. West has a background in education policy, nonprofit leadership, and social enterprise.