North Carolina Educators Demand a Better Future

LA Johnson  NPR

More than 10,000 people organized for the Teacher's Rally for Respect and March for Students in Raleigh on Wednesday, to advocate for increased per-pupil funding, better teacher pay and access to more supplies and resources for classrooms.

"It's historic to me", Jones said. Hours after the record-setting rally ended outside the General Assembly, rally organizers were smiling and taking group photos inside NC Association of Educators headquarters - still jubilant and hopeful.

Being in Raleigh, she said, was important not just for her, but for her students as well - and she wants legislators to listen.

The teacher walkouts began in late February in West Virginia, where teachers shut down schools for nine days, leading to 5 percent raises for school staffers and state workers. Lindsay Harris, a Johnston County teacher agreed.

"This has to be a bipartisan effort to fix our educational problems, and you can't convince me there are not Republican-leaning teachers who feel the same way as Democratic-leaning teachers on this subject".

Thousands of teachers dressed in red marched on Raleigh on Wednesday.

Most carried signs expressing their hopes and desires.

Although the march and rally are primarily aimed at North Carolina's public education system, teachers from private and charter schools were in attendance as well. "We're going to have to shift some of the players", Jewell said.

"It's about respect, it's personal, it's about real investment in our schools", he said.

The actions, plus the recession, meant schools took a hit.

Rep. Hardister, a Republican representing Guilford County, explains teacher pay has gone up about 9% over the past few years they have budgeted more money for education but there's still more work to do. The gathering in uptown was a way for those teachers to still have their voices heard, she said. "And voters will make up their minds about what story they want to believe". Prior to the strike, Davis hadn't gone to a protest, but after speaking with her mother, who went on strike as a teacher in Colorado, Davis chose to join the growing movement.

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Dressed in red T-shirts, the tide rolled through downtown Raleigh and crashed on the legislative building, where the Republican-controlled legislature started its annual work session.

According to the North Carolina Association of Educators, North Carolina spends about $2,400 less than the national average per student and ranks 37 in the nation for teacher pay.

Letchworth said that being a math teacher, she knows that there is power in numbers. Gov. Cooper had some very inspirational words and was honest in his efforts to address teacher's concerns. He then laid out a plan to raise taxes on corporations and those making above $200,000, giving teachers an 8% average pay increase, with some receiving raises as high as 14%.

North Carolina now ranks 37th in teacher pay and 39th in per pupil spending, according to the National Education Association.

Teacher walkouts this year have already occurred in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado.

Some were comical, saying "It's so bad, even introverts are here" and "My BRA provides more SUPPORT than you!" The state has given raises but has cut pay for longtime teachers and for teachers who receive master's degrees.

Lowe said solutions need to include "shifting some resources toward the schools and being much better stewards of taxpayer money".

But Rachel Holdridge, a special education teacher at Wilmington's Alderman Elementary School, said lawmakers have let teachers down by failing to equip them properly to do their jobs. She also skipped the other three jobs she said she holds to make ends meet.

There were 14 House and seven Senate bills introduced Wednesday, a lot of them associated with education.

Kenely said it was her first time coming to the legislature.

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