Students in Vance and Wilson counties now will be among the thousands across the state who won’t go to school Wednesday as teachers prepare to march in Raleigh on the first day of the legislative session.
The school boards in both counties voted Monday to make May 16 an optional teacher work day.
“It is all about the students,” said Jameel Williams, who has taught for 30 years in Vance County. “We have to do something to let them know that we’re watching and we’re tired. We’re sick and tired of being tired.”
At the headquarters of the North Carolina Association of Educators, staff members are making final preparations for the logistics of Wednesday’s march and outlining their goals.
“We certainly understand that this one day is an inconvenience for many of our family members. But, I would like to say that the response from parents across the state has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Mark Jewell, president of the NCAE.
Teachers will push for increases in pay, spending per student in classrooms, funding for support staff, as well for the construction of new schools.
Average teacher pay in North Carolina is $51,214, according to the state’s Department of Public Instruction. This is the first time the average salary has exceeded $50,000.
A recent analysis by the National Association of Educators found North Carolina ranks 37th in the nation in teacher pay (about $9,600 below the national average) and 39th in per-pupil spending.
Republicans point out teachers have received raises the last few years, and are budgeted to receive another one this coming year. In his budget proposal, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) called for North Carolina’s average teacher pay to reach the national average in five years. He also called for an average pay raise of more than 8 percent next year, but proposed stopping a cut in the corporate income tax rate that Republicans approved. The budget Republicans previously approved for this upcoming year included an average 6 percent pay raise for teachers.
Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union/Anson) wrote on Facebook that Wednesday’s school closures are an “inconvenience” for parents. He went on to write, “Let’s call this what it is, Teacher Union thugs want to control the education process!”
Jewell pushed back on that.
“This is all about accountability. This is another reason we say this is a six-month stretch,” he said, noting the election coming up in November.
For students in Wilson and Vance counties, some schools will be open to serve lunch.
In Wilson County, that will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at these schools: Barnes, Elm City, Hearne, Vick, Wells and Winstead elementary schools. Lunch will be free for students.
In Vance County, that will be from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at these schools: Pinkston Street, L.B. Yancey, E.M. Rollins elementary schools as well as Henderson and Eaton-Johnson middle schools. Parents must provide transportation to the schools.
Students in Wilson County do not have to make up the day. In Vance County, the school day will be extended by 15 minutes each day from May 29 to June 8.
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