Thursday, 24 May, 2018

Teachers in red gather before North Carolina education rally

Demanding respect, thousands of teachers and students swarm North Carolina capital In North Carolina, Teacher Protest Exposes Rural-Urban Divide
Gerardo Duncan | 17 May, 2018, 06:52

"I'm a grandmother, not a thug", said Ira Reed.

The protest was the latest in a wave of actions and strikes this year by teachers in states including West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado who feel lawmakers have failed to adequately pay teachers and provide for schools.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper spoke at a rally across the street, promoting his proposal to pay for higher salaries by blocking tax cuts that Republicans made a decision to give corporations and high-income households next January. Today teachers in North Carolina took to the streets demanding change.

The North Carolina Association of Educators, the group coordinating the protest, said teachers were marching because the state has cut taxes while public school per-student spending and teacher salaries lag national averages.

Despite a milder official designation, however, John Wood - a teacher at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school near Durham - said that teachers had turned out en masse as a direct challenge to politicians who have consistently pursued party interests over their demands.

The March for Students and Rally for Respect, as protesters have called the event, was organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators. "If I'm going to teach civics there's no better real world experience that being out here and using my voice and my rights as a voter and as a citizen exercising my civic duty to advocate for myself and colleagues and neighbors and my students and our communities across rural North Carolina".

North Carolina teachers earn about $50,000 on average, ranking 39th in the country previous year, the National Education Association reported last month.

State Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, a former chairman of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education, said he recognized several teachers among the local contingent Wednesday.

Teachers and reporters posted photos, videos, and updates from Raleigh with the hashtags #RedforEd, #RedforEdNC, and #NCTeacherRally.

The teachers are urging lawmakers to invest more per student in spending until it reaches the national average. Three of the state's largest school districts are closed as a result of teachers leaving school, including Wake County Public School System, which has 160,000 students, according to the Associated Press.

Numerous teachers who crowded into Raleigh Wednesday went inside and crowded into the opening of the legislature's short session.

"We need to keep this energy", he says. So regardless of the party affiliation, what we are seeing from this movement is that citizens love their public schools.

But Rachel Holdridge, a special education teacher at Wilmington's Alderman Elementary School, said lawmakers have let teachers down by failing to equip them properly to do their jobs. "But how do we pay for it?" said Cooper in a speech to the crowd.

The North Carolina Association of Educators is calling for per-student spending and teacher pay to be raised to at least the national average.

N.C. Association of Educators leaders said they sent emails to legislators to encourage them to attend the rally, if for no other reason than the opportunity to speak to constituents in designated areas identified by county.

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.

"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.

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