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North Carolina Teachers Rally Over Wages, Education Funding

17 May 2018

"It's kind of at a time where we're saying enough is enough", said Dennis.

"We trust you teachers", Cooper told the crowd in Bicentennial Plaza. We have never see each other, but we all have the same voice. "I mean we're treated like a stepchild and we are the professionals that make the professionals".

Most carried signs expressing their hopes and desires.

"This is nearly as big as my class size", one sign read. As legislators convened, the crowd could be heard chanting, "Remember, remember, we vote in November".

Many bore the same message, like "Kids are worth more than 39th".

And Republican Sen. Bill Cook said he thinks Wednesday's march was mostly about supporting the Democratic Party in a political season. It's about the children that we work with every day. "Our classrooms are falling apart, the building doesn't get cleaned on a regular basis because we don't have funds to clean it".

Demanding respect, thousands of teachers and students swarm North Carolina capital
North Carolina teachers converge on state capitol demanding pay raise, better resources

"They have hard jobs and they deserve our respect and support" that he said goes beyond what the legislature can provide in funding to community and employer resources.

"It is tax fairness for teacher pay", Cooper said.

"I have blinds in my classroom from 1956 and they are taped up because they've fallen down 3 times", explains Laura Aberg, a teacher at Smith High School in Greensboro.

The North Carolina rally, which follows teacher protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona, resulted in around three dozen school districts in the state canceling class Wednesday.

The 38-year-old said her concerns go beyond teacher pay to basic school needs that go unfunded.

Simmons, a seventh-grade teacher at Ashley Park, spoke with fellow teachers near the entrance of the park Wednesday, as he held a poster that said "Because of teacher pay, ramen noodles are my bae". "We need to do better for our public schools". It's not just about salary.

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Being in Raleigh, she said, was important not just for her, but for her students as well - and she wants legislators to listen. Teachers and other supporters met at the front of New Hanover County Government Center.

"I'd be making $17,000 more a year right now if I was teaching in Tennessee", shouted another. Over the same period, spending on public schools here has dropped by 8%. Teachers want better pay and better working conditions.

"The energy was really high", Warren said.

"This legislature continues to put too much focus on cutting taxes for corporations instead of providing our public schools with the funding they need and deserve", Lowe said.

He called the proposed increase "a major step" and told reporters the raise represents the fifth recent year that teacher pay has increased in North Carolina. "Their base pay coming out of college is so low that after taxes and benefits, they can't even afford to even pay rent or their student loans, so they leave".

"The mantra became, again and again, 'Do more with less.' And the problem has become at this point that there's not much less to do more with", Mitchell says. "Yes, it was about pay, but so much more".

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Amy Buchen, a first-grade educator at Brassfield Elementary School in Raleigh, says she was amazed by the huge community that formed in the wake of this morning's protests. "We talked about education policy".

"Each county feels the same way", Barnes said. "That's taking away from our households for our families", Barnes said.

Rebecca LaMaire, an art teacher at Holt Elementary in Durham, is concerned about the future of teaching as a profession, and what that means for students.

"It's historic to me", Jones said. It's very moving. It's inspiring.

"Long-term salary growth is in fact what North Carolina teachers need, and that's exactly what they got".

Visit WilsonTimes.com to watch a video and browse a photo gallery from the March for Students and Rally for Respect.

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North Carolina Teachers Rally Over Wages, Education Funding