But Republican leaders appear determined not to change course, and North Carolina educators are not unionized, so they have fewer options for organized protest than teachers in some other states. 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.
According to the National Education Association, North Carolina teachers ranked 39th in average teacher pay past year, with an average salary of $49,970.
The North Carolina educators say their top goal is to get legislators to increase annual per-pupil funding, which is now about $9,329, according to a 2018 report by the National Education Association.
He said he will put in an extra $112 million to the state’s budget.
Most teachers quieted down when asked, but a woman who yelled, “Education is a Right: That is why we have to fight, ” was among four escorted from the Senate gallery.
It would raise teacher salaries by putting a stop to planned tax cuts for corporations and high income households.
But are teachers too hopeful about satisfying their demands to boost per-pupil spending to the national average, more money for school construction, and a multi-year pay raise for teachers and support staff to push North Carolina out of 39th place in the USA for teacher pay?
Jared Speight, a social studies teacher at North Stanly High School who participated in Wednesday’s march, said straightforwardly that his students are being “failed” by the amount of funding the state’s schools receive. The website also stipulates five demands from elected leaders, including an increase in per-pupil spending, a “multi-year professional pay plan” for teachers, an increased number of mental and physical health professionals in schools, and moderated class sizes.
Wednesday’s march and rally follows similar teacher protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona. The NCAE says that the amount of money legislators spend per student is over $3,000 below the national average. Summing up the intent of the unions, AFT President Randi Weingarten, a member of the Democratic National Committee, said, “We want to turn these walkouts into walk-ins into the voting booth” for the Democrats. You would think that we work together. In West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, legislators have funded paltry wages increases through regressive taxes on workers and cuts to social programs (see: “Deals by unions to end United States teacher strikes funded by regressive taxes, more budget cuts”). “I’m here to support my students”.
The rally in Raleigh is just the latest in a wave of teacher uprisings this year.
“Education should not be political”, Wood, who teaches digital music creation and video production, said.
“When you take away funding for all of this other stuff you’re shortchanging the kids”, he said.
“I teach in a classroom that is an outside room – smaller than all the other rooms on campus”, Burford said. “I just wish I could live off of what I get for doing it”. They said a lack of funding is making their job harder in more ways than one. “There’s more in the ceilings”, she said.
There were 14 House and seven Senate bills introduced Wednesday, a lot of them associated with education. She takes a sober view of how much the march will accomplish, but said: “You’ve got to start somewhere”.
But she’s also concerned about basic school needs going unfunded.
Karen Martin-Jones, science teacher and department chairwoman at High Point Central High School, said the rally was important “because we are losing educators daily”, adding that there is “a major retention issue” when it comes to attracting and keeping quality educators in the classroom.
“We have a library but no librarian”.
Davis said she makes only $32,000 a year and works on the weekend as a waitress at a sports bar to help afford supplies for her students. “The collection hasn’t been updated. The books are on the floor”.