North Carolina teachers on Wednesday joined the fight for funding teachers have been waging across the country. Teachers went the state capital of Raleigh to demand better pay and benefits, annual cost-of-living increases, and more education funding in general.
The rally will be different from some of the longer work stoppages in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Arizona, since teachers are taking just one personal day to rally at the legislative building in Raleigh. The March for Students and Rally for Respect starts at 10 a.m. and teachers will march from the North Carolina Association of Educators headquarters to the legislative building, enter the building, and begin meeting with legislators. At 3 p.m., they will hold a rally.
SEEING RED: Thousands of teachers from across North Carolina have descended upon the streets of #Raleigh…
— Mark Davenport WBTV (@TheDavenReport) May 16, 2018
A North Carolina kindergarten teacher Kristin Beller, who has a side job as a tutor, told NBC News, “We have suffered through a decade of cuts, so this will be a sign of strength, a sign of power, a sign that North Carolina fully believes in public schools.”
North Carolina teachers want lawmakers to ensure “significant and livable raises for all educators,” make schools safer, improve school buildings with a $1.9 billion Statewide School Construction Bond, and better students’ health by adding more nurses, counselors, and expanding Medicaid. They also don’t want lawmakers to pass any more corporate tax cuts until the per pupil spending reaches the national average.
— gwen frisbie-fulton (@gwen_fulton) May 16, 2018
As part of their multi-year professional compensation and benefits plan, teachers want to get an annual cost-of-living increase, get significant raises for all public school employees, and end pay for performance based on test scores, to name a few of their priorities.
At $49,970, North Carolina teachers ranked 39th in average teacher pay in 2017, according to the National Education Association, and teacher pay fell 9.4 percent since 2009. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which looked at the percent change in K-12 funding from 2008 to 2015, adjusting for inflation, found that total state funding per student in North Carolina fell 12.2 percent since 2008.
Tax cuts passed since 2013 have cost the state $3.5 billion in lost annual revenue a year, according to the North Carolina Justice Center, a progressive research and advocacy organization.
#wral is live with an overview of the crowd as teachers march to the North Carolina Legislative Building to lobby for more funding for education. >> https://t.co/XKspfZ22mK #ncteacherrally pic.twitter.com/XRLvEcpW9k
— WRAL NEWS in NC (@WRAL) May 16, 2018
Thousands of teachers are expected to show up for the march and rally. Almost 40 school districts announced closures as of Tuesday. Three of the state’s largest school districts are closed as a result of teachers leaving school, including Wake County Public School System, which has 160,000 students, according to the Associated Press. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which has 150,000 students, will also cancel classes.
— Nick Valencia (@CNNValencia) May 16, 2018
— Adam Owens (@AdamOwensTV) May 16, 2018
Some lawmakers have criticized teachers for their one-day rally. North Carolina state representative Mark Brody (R) posted on Facebook that teachers “choose to inconvenience” parents by rallying.
He added, “Let’s call this what it is, Teacher Union thugs want to control the education process! … I will end this by saying I strongly support those teachers who do the right thing, in the right way and at the right time. Your biggest legislative support comes from the Republican State legislature. Your greatest enemy for the causes you strive for is the Teacher Union, your incompetent and/or spineless local administrations and, the biggest problem of them all, the NC Department of Public Instruction.”
Throughout the nationwide strikes, many conservative lawmakers have outright disparaged teachers — as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) did when she compared teachers to a teenager who “wants a better car.” Others have focused on unionization and union leaders as the reason “good” teachers are undermined and “bad” teachers get to stay. Republicans have also tried to delegitimize the protests by suggesting that teachers are being led astray by political actors pushing alternative agendas or that outside groups, such as paid protesters, have joined the rallies.