Twenty Thousand People Amass in Downtown Raleigh to Demand Better Education Funding

Hannah Rogers
May 17, 2018

"I'm here to make sure our students have what they need to have a bright future", said Tami Brantley, 51, a teacher of 26 years from Cabarrus County, on the outskirts of Charlotte. Buoyed by the success of the West Virginia strike, teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona soon followed suit, closing down schools and flooding their state capitals to call for more funding.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper spoke at a rally across the street, promoting his proposal to pay for higher salaries by blocking tax cuts that Republicans chose to give corporations and high-income households next January.

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.

Amy says, " many veteran teachers have had pay freezes so on our current pay scale they won't make any more money, so this is about advocating for the resources and funds that our students deserve".

State Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, said he was moved by hearing another round of teacher stories, those from Forsyth and across North Carolina. Some of those efforts led to teacher walkouts and closed schools until the Republican-controlled legislatures agreed to compromise on compensation and pension issues. 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. "North Carolina public school educators, parents, and our communities demand better for our students".

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

The protesters gathered at the state capitol Wednesday, wearing red to fit the Red For Ed theme. "It's been past time, but now is an opportunity to say we're going to stand with other teachers in other states", said Patrick, who teaches in Cumberland County, home to the Army's largest base at Fort Bragg.

Teacher pay in North Carolina ranked 39th in the country past year.

More than three dozen school districts, including the 10 largest in the state, have chose to close classrooms as a result.

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"We would just like to collectively recognize and thank all the teachers from around the state who traveled to be with us", Moore said. "We're grossly underfunding our schools", he said.

- Invest more in spending per student.

Luciano knew that at least eight of his teachers went to Raleigh to fight for more resources for their classrooms.

He called the proposed increase "a major step" and told reporters the raise represents the fifth year teacher pay has increased in North Carolina. Their pay increased by 4.2 percent over the previous year - the second-biggest increase in the country - and was estimated to rise an average 1.8 percent this year, the NEA said.

But with the Great Recession in the past and the state's financial stability restored, teachers say it's time to catch up on deferred school spending.

Jewell said teachers don't really expect GOP lawmakers to meet all their demands, which is why they are also urging voters to not re-elect them.

"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.

"We have the power to mold the future", he said.

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

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