North Carolina teachers march for more education funding

Educators gather outside the House and Senate chambers with signs during a teachers rally at the General Assembly in Raleigh N.C. Wednesday. Teachers demanding better pay and more resources also filled the streets of North Carolina's capital city

Educators gather outside the House and Senate chambers with signs during a teachers rally at the General Assembly in Raleigh N.C. Wednesday. Teachers demanding better pay and more resources also filled the streets of North Carolina's capital city

Jessie Burnett is a teacher and says, "our students deserve more than what they are getting". The revolt started with striking teachers in West Virginia, who inspired their counterparts in Oklahoma and Arizona to form picket lines of their own.

The teachers' group favors a proposal by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to raise salaries by stopping planned tax cuts on corporations and high-income households.

Although North Carolina educators have had some salary increases in recent last years, their wages haven't kept up with inflation: teachers' real wages have decreased by 9.4 percent since 2009 when inflation is taken into account.

The group demands that legislators increase per-pupil spending to the national average, increase school construction for a growing state, and approve a multiyear pay raise for teachers and school support staff that raises incomes to the national average.

According to the National Education Association, North Carolina ranks 39th in public school teacher pay in the U.S. Teachers received a 4.2 percent pay bump past year, but they still earn less than what they were making a decade ago when adjusted for inflation. According to the North Carolina Association of Educators, which coordinated the march, there were upward of twenty thousand people in attendance. "North Carolina public school educators, parents, and our communities demand better for our students".

Ahead of Wednesday's event, Republican lawmakers said they have provided teachers with salary increases over each of the past four years and wrote a pay increase for 2018-2019 into the biennial budget passed last year.

Carrying signs that said "Our teachers are worth it", educators in red T-shirts chanting "Red for Ed" streamed through a downtown Raleigh street heading for a rally at the capitol.

Those who came out brought posters and wore red in support of the rally.

The teachers are urging lawmakers to invest more per student in spending until it reaches the national average.

More than three dozen school districts - from the 10 largest to numerous smaller districts in rural areas - that together educate more than two-thirds of the state's 1.5 million public school students are closed Wednesday.

Wednesday's rally is part of a national trend.

"We would just like to collectively recognize and thank all the teachers from around the state who traveled to be with us", Moore said.

"I teach at the high school I attended", Speight said. "Unless we make a lot of noise, our representatives, the people in that building aren't going to listen to us, they are going to keep doing what they've been doing all along". The Republican-dominated legislature should expand Medicaid coverage so students and their families stay healthy, and cancel corporate tax cuts until school spending is increased, Jewell said. "We know you are critical for the success of our schools, but we have to be willing to prioritize it and pay for it", he said.

"We have no intention of raising taxes", Berger said ahead of the march.

N.C. Association of Educators leaders said they sent emails to legislators to encourage them to attend the rally, if for no other reason than the opportunity to speak to constituents in designated areas identified by county.

Myers said he thinks schools need emphasis for more nurses, addressing special education needs, or helping students with anxiety attacks related to standardized testing.

"There is usually not this much excitement during the short session, but its good to see this many folks turning out to support education which is critical to our state and critical to our workforce development", said Sec.

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