Local connection to teacher rally in Raleigh

Cristina Chase Lane and Winnie Hope Mamboleo recently graduated from North Carolina State University's teacher college

Previous strikes, walkouts and protests in West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Colorado and Oklahoma led legislators in each state to improve pay, benefits or overall school funding.

"We've heard people like Gov. (Roy) Cooper push for a return to the same failed approach that required the furloughing of teachers and the freezing of their salaries by Democrats when they were last in control", said Berger Tuesday in a press conference ahead of the rally. "I think the people of North Carolina don't fully support that sort of action".

The state's main teacher advocacy group, the North Carolina Association of Educators, demands that legislators increase per-pupil spending to the national average in four years, increase school construction for a growing state, and approve a multiyear pay raise for teachers and school support staff that would raise incomes to the national average.

"I think it's important that we all rally together", Wrightsboro Elementary School teacher Brandi Laney said. They said Republican leaders should be more concerned about doing more, given that North Carolina remains ranked in the low 30s for teacher pay nationwide.

"You can't have a strong economy and attract employers with good-paying jobs without a well-educated workforce continuously coming from a pipeline of our students", Davis said. It also wants the state to institute higher pay for teachers with advanced degrees and long tenures and to hire an additional 500 school nurses and counselors for the current school year.

The recent wave of teacher activism sweeping through conservative, tax-cutting states has washed into North Carolina.

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.

More than three dozen school districts - from the 10 largest to numerous smaller districts in rural areas - that together educate more than two-thirds of the state's 1.5 million public school students are closed Wednesday.

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According to march volunteers Amira Pankey and Julia Singley, who work with CAPE in Guilford County, approximately 14,000 teachers officially took personal days in order to attend the rally. "Now we need to put our money where our trust is", Cooper told cheering protesters in red T-shirts who filled a plaza outside the legislature.

But not all of them could make it. So regardless of the party affiliation, what we are seeing from this movement is that citizens love their public schools.

"They keep giving tiny raises and taking so much away from the kids", Holdridge said outside the Legislative Building. When adjusted to inflation, teachers in the state make less than they did a decade ago.

Teachers are now scheduled to receive a six-percent pay raise next year, but Cooper is calling on state legislators to bump that pay increase to eight percent.

"According to the NEA, North Carolina Ranked #2 in the United States for fastest rising teacher pay in 2017", Republican Senator Phil Berger, president pro tempore, said on Twitter during the march.

Republican legislative leaders have said this year's planned salary increase of 6 percent would mark the fifth consecutive annual increase. He said they should be paid like the professionals they are.

He said one of his own concerns is the school building, which he said was built in 1954 and needs many repairs.

Robertson said she and her colleagues need behavioral support in the classrooms, textbooks that match their curriculum and even materials for their reading program.

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