Thousands of Teachers March Through Raleigh to Call for Raises, Education Funding

Demanding respect, thousands of teachers and students swarm North Carolina capital

"We must turn out the vote this fall, and the future of North Carolina schools hinges on this midterm elections", Elena Brown-Richardson, a teacher at Carmel Middle School, told the crowd. "We just want to find a sort of peaceful solution with this".

Thousands of North Carolina teachers marched on the state Capitol on Wednesday calling for higher pay, greater spending on education and better working conditions. Both parties should be working together to give educators the resources they need and to improve the quality of education delivered to the children of North Carolina.

Nearby, Steven Davis, a teacher at Isaac Dickson Elementary School was finishing up a poster.

"This is nearly as big as my class size", one sign read.

"You look at 35 kids in a 90 minute block, that's less than 3 minutes a kid", she says.

Many bore the same message, like "Kids are worth more than 39th". Even most Republicans support these ideas. But are teachers too hopeful about satisfying their demands to boost per-pupil spending to the national average, more money for school construction, and a multi-year pay raise for teachers and support staff to push North Carolina out of 39th place in the US for teacher pay?

"We support offering different learning environments in hope of determining which is the best option for every child", she said. The gathering in uptown was a way for those teachers to still have their voices heard, she said.

Rep. Hardister, a Republican representing Guilford County, explains teacher pay has gone up about 9% over the past few years they have budgeted more money for education but there's still more work to do. Wednesday's march in Raliegh prompted more than three-dozen school districts - including Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools - that educate more than two-thirds of the state's 1.5 million public school students to cancel classes.

Cheryl Burford is a music teacher at Clyde Erwin Elementary Magnet School of International Studies and Cultural Arts in Onslow County.

"I teach in a classroom that is an outside room - smaller than all the other rooms on campus", Burford said. That's what brings us here.

"We all had the same story, crumbling buildings, no supplies, lack of teacher assistants", Trujillo said.

Being in Raleigh, she said, was important not just for her, but for her students as well - and she wants legislators to listen. "It's really putting the faces to the issues".

"Today was one of the most incredible experiences", stated Kathryn Brooks, a teacher in Wake County".

"I'd be making $17,000 more a year right now if I was teaching in Tennessee", shouted another. "The recession hit our state hard".

Neither Cooper nor any of the other speakers mentioned that former Democratic Governor Perdue carried out deep cuts to school funding in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. "I don't want them to never think about teaching because of these issues". She takes a sober view of how much the march will accomplish, but said: "You've got to start somewhere".

"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.

Any real change may have to come through the voting booth, Pierce said.

The claim that there is no money for decent wages and benefits, textbooks and the training and hiring of new teachers and school employees is a lie.

"They need to start investing in the public school classroom instead of corporate boardrooms".

Pennington's hope is that legislators will look at providing a living wage for teachers.

And he told the educators they have his support. "So when we say an average salary is $51,000, that doesn't reflect the base pay". They advertise that the average pay is $50,000, but most pay raises go to new teachers. That salary puts them closer to the national average. Still, she said it would be easier if social workers were assigned to one school at a time. "You can't check out books", she said.

"It's awesome. It's fantastic", Kenely said. "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.

"We go home. We organize".

Teachers in North Carolina participated in an advocacy day outside of the state legislature on Wednesday.

"It's historic to me", Jones said. It's very moving. It's inspiring. "They came today because they believe they deserve the legislature's respect for helping to make that happen".

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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