NC lawmakers react to teacher rally

17 May, 2018, 06:51 | Author: Mable Gonzales
  • Demanding respect, thousands of teachers and students swarm North Carolina capital

Strikes, walkouts and protest rallies have swept through West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Colorado and Oklahoma since February.

Echoing the frustration of teachers who have walked out in other states, the group has also called for a moratorium on new corporate tax cuts until teachers are earning the national average.

Although the Wednesday rally is the only action of its kind now on the slate for North Carolina's teachers, both Wood and Speight said that it's "just the beginning" of the backlash coming to lawmakers when the polls open in November.

"One of the most important lessons we will teach our students all year might be today, ironically, when we are out of school", she said. Several sources said North Carolina is putting the finishing touches on an incentives package for a major Apple investment in the state, including thousands of high-paying jobs in the Triangle.

Cheryl Burford is a music teacher at Clyde Erwin Elementary Magnet School of International Studies and Cultural Arts in Onslow County.

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.

North Carolina teachers on Wednesday joined the fight for funding teachers have been waging across the country.

The office of state Rep. Debra Conrad, R-Forsyth, had a "Welcome teachers" sign, red balloons and a desk full of teacher compensation charts and other Republican education talking points, including the GOP website.

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Miss North Carolina Victoria Huggins sang the National Anthem to open the session. 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.

Lee Irvin of Cary said he's sympathetic to the teachers' demands, if not their method, which is forcing the software engineer and his wife to work from home on Wednesday. "We're grossly underfunding our schools", he said.

Advocates at the NCAE called for legislators to invest in school nurses, counselors, and social workers, expand the state's per-pupil spending, and improve school infrastructure and lower student classroom counts, among other demands. "My mom was a teacher and back in the 90s, she said that she had to do this and about every 20 years, you kind of need to get people's attention cause it just gets put on the back burner so much".

Carolynn Phillips, a middle school arts teacher from coastal Brunswick County who was named the county's Teacher of the Year for 2018, called the protest a cry for respect from teachers whose pay ranks toward the bottom of US states. "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.

And with the state's finances stabilized after the Great Recession, teachers say it's time to catch up on deferred school spending. 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, but that still represents a 9.4 percent slide in real income since 2009 due to inflation, the NEA said.

"We need those young, passionate teachers to stay in the profession", Simmons said.

"We have the power to mold the future", he said. She said simple capital needs in her school, such as building repairs, have been neglected. Instead, she said she was mostly at the rally to support educators like the ones who teach her children.

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