Thousands of teachers hit the streets of North Carolina's capital, bidding to force a political showdown over wages and funding for public school classrooms in this conservative, tax-cutting state.
City blocks turned red, the color of shirts worn by the marchers, who carried signs and chanted "We care!" "And the folks that are fighting really deeply believe that public education is a cornerstone of our democracy, and we're in danger of losing it". An estimated 19,000 people joined the march, according to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, which drew from aerial photos.
Tiffany Pfouts, an arts teacher at Mills Park Middle School in Cary, said simple needs such as building repairs at her school have been neglected. "As we're growing, the funds are not keeping up with the growth. We are seeing cutback, after cutback, after cutback".
Lines to enter the legislature's front and rear entrances wrapped along the building's perimeter.
The state's most powerful politician said legislators will listen to protesting teachers as they do any constituent. No arrests were made.
Johnson was also scheduled to hold a media event at Roger Bell Elementary School in Craven County, but the school chose to postpone his visit due to the teacher rally, according to district spokeswoman Jennifer Wagner.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger criticized the rally, stating that teacher strikes are illegal in North Carolina.
Rachel Holdridge, a special education teacher at Wilmington's Alderman Elementary School with 22 years' experience, said she drives for Uber to make ends meet.
Recruiting and keep top teachers is the goal Senator Tarte said but some CMS educators say they aren't paid top dollar.
Berger says the difference is an average of $8,600 - or a 19-percent increase - compared to the 2013-14 school year.
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Today's teacher rally is evidence of the incredible passion North Carolina educators have for their profession and the need to do more to give them the support they need. He says he thinks teachers know the legislature is on the right track with five years of salary raises and merit-based bonuses. He said he will put in an extra $112 million to the state's budget.
Susan Alton Dailey of Durham brought her elementary-school-aged son and daughter to the march, saying she's not concerned they're missing class. She feels like it's her duty to stand up for her students, she added. Warren said part of the reason that so many teachers plan to participate is that they've been fed up for years.
On Tuesday, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said that budget leaders in the House and Senate are ready to approve at least a 6.2 percent increase in teacher salaries for the next year.
North Carolina spent $9,948 per student in 2017, according to a report from the National Education Association, putting it at 38th among states.
Opponents of the rally need only look at a few statistics to realize just how much neglect public schools have suffered in the last 10 years, to include a 45 percent decrease in textbook funding, 55 percent decrease in supplies and materials funding and 59 percent decrease in technology funding since 2009 when adjusted for inflation.
"Go ask your legislators that question: Are you going to support even more tax cuts or support better teacher pay and investment in our public schools?"
"We have a library but no librarian".
Weingarten said she had never been so excited in her entire lifetime in the labor movement as she is now. "The collection hasn't been updated".
The North Carolina General Assembly opened its annual session with thousands of teachers and their allies inside and outside the Legislative Building.
Avery County Schools, Burke County Schools, Lincoln County Schools and Anson County Schools still had class Wednesday.
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