North Carolina teachers held a march and rally Wednesday, calling for better pay, benefits and more state spending per student.
Following teachers’ protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, educators in North Carolina are also taking on their state legislators in a public fight for higher wages and education funding.
When the state legislature comes back in session Wednesday, lawmakers could be confronted with thousands of teachers, who are skipping school to make their demands known to their representatives.
With so many teachers out of the classroom, hundreds of schools will be closed to students Wednesday. Wake County Public School System — the largest in the state — is among those canceling classes.
In the morning, teachers are planning to walk from the North Carolina Association of Educators office to the North Carolina State Legislative Building in what’s being called March for Students and later holding a Rally for Respect in the afternoon in Raleigh.
The teachers plan to use a personal day and hold the event for just one day, but the long-term plan is to pressure lawmakers beyond Wednesday’s events.
“It’s the beginning of a six-month stretch of time to hold our legislators accountable for prioritizing corporate tax cuts instead of our classrooms,” according to the North Carolina Association of Educators.
What do teachers want?
The state teachers group said it wants lawmakers to:
— Invest more in spending per student.
— Create a multiyear pay plan for teachers, support staff, administrators and all other school personnel.
“This plan must include restoration of compensation for advanced degrees and longevity,” the state teachers group said. “The plan must also stop the flat-lining of experienced educators’ pay.”
— Increase the number of school nurses, counselors, social workers and other support personnel and expand Medicaid to improve community health.
— Create a statewide school construction board to fix crumbling schools and reduce large class sizes.
What state is offering
In an apparent pre-emptive strike, House Speaker Tim Moore said budget leaders in the House and Senate on Tuesday officially committed to at least a 6.2% increase in teacher salaries for the upcoming fiscal year.
He called the proposed increase “a major step” and told reporters the raise represents the fifth year teacher pay has increased in North Carolina. That increase will bring the average teacher pay to more than $53,000, not accounting for local supplements, benefits or bonuses, he said.
According to the National Education Association, North Carolina teachers ranked 39th in average teacher pay last year, with an average salary of $49,970. They’ve had some salary increases in recent years, but when adjusted for inflation, they’ve lost 9.4% in pay since 2009.
The same report says North Carolina also ranks 39th in per-student spending — about $2,313 less per student than the national average of $11,642.
“The lackluster rankings come at the same time that the North Carolina General Assembly has passed massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy,” the North Carolina Association of Educators said.