Thousands of teachers, supporters march in Raleigh

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) – North Carolina teachers took to the streets for the second year in a row with hopes that a more politically balanced legislature will be more willing to meet their demands.

Teachers, auxiliary staff and supporters marched through downtown Raleigh on Wednesday. 

Gov. Roy Cooper and the Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign spoke before a crowd of educators at Halifax Mall. 

When an estimated 20,000 people marched for teachers last year, Republicans held a veto-proof majority in the state House and Senate.

The results of November’s election changed that, and now Cooper’s vetoes can stand if Democrats remain united.

The House budget released Tuesday includes some of the teachers’ demands: higher pay for veteran teachers and restoration of a salary bump for teachers with masters’ degrees.

Teachers would receive an average raise of 4.8 percent next year under the House plan, which Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and other senior legislators announced Tuesday. The raise for assistant principals would average 6.3%. For principals, it would be 10 percent.

“If you look at our new budget we just rolled out it’s going to raise average teacher pay to $56,500. That’s the highest it’s ever been in North Carolina,” said Moore. “We think our budget takes care of the priorities of this state. And, we feel comfortable it’s going to get passage. And, we hope it gets enacted into law.” 

Most state employees will see raises of either 1 percent or $500, whichever is greater, said Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth).

“You know, the last five budgets in North Carolina have increased state employee pay, and particularly teacher pay,” said Moore. “This robust salary plan continues our commitment to rewarding the people who keep our state safe, teach our children and protect our communities.”

Moore said House lawmakers aim to approve their version of the budget by Friday.

It also includes a $145 allowance for each teacher to spend on classroom supplies through an online program called Class Wallet. Legislators previously announced a plan to redirect existing funding to allow each teacher to have $400 to spend. However, that plan faced criticism, including from North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell, who described it as a “shell game.” The new plan would provide additional funding instead of redirecting existing funding.

Hundreds of thousands of students will not have classes Wednesday because some school districts have closed due to a lack of substitute teachers to fill in for the educators who’ve requested the day off to rally in Raleigh.

“I think we could do more. I’m concerned about the fact that we’re actually going to be cutting revenues when as the folks out there, the several thousand folks out there, would agree we’re not putting enough resources into education,” said Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake).

The NCAE has identified five goals for this year’s rally: increased funding for support staff such as counselors, increased pay for employees, expand Medicaid, restore cuts to retiree health benefits and restore pay for employees with advanced degrees.

South Carolina teachers also are protesting Wednesday.

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