North Carolina teachers join 'Red for Ed' walkouts for higher pay

Minnie Murray
May 17, 2018

"I'm one of the last teachers out of the building on a regular basis, and we work really hard for the kids and we're passionate", Simmons said. The revolt started with striking teachers in West Virginia, who inspired their counterparts in Oklahoma and Arizona to form picket lines of their own.

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.

Tax cuts passed since 2013 have cost the state $3.5 billion in lost annual revenue a year, according to the North Carolina Justice Center, a progressive research and advocacy organization.

As teachers left his office, Brody handed them cards with the address to a Republican legislators' website on teacher pay. Several sources said North Carolina is putting the finishing touches on an incentives package for a major Apple investment in the state, including thousands of high-paying jobs in the Triangle.

Hosted by the North Carolina Association of Educators, organizers said it was a "day of solidarity for public school educators and advocates", calling for for action from elected leaders, as the North Carolina General Assembly reconvened.

"I want to get my master's in education so I can better provide for my students, even though there's no master's pay anymore", Darwish said.

"But you know, teacher strikes are illegal in North Carolina and in some respect what we're seeing looks like a work slowdown", state Senate leader Phil Berger said last week. The average salary for teachers in the state is $49,970, or about $9,000 below the national average, Jewell said.

North Carolina ranks 37th in teacher pay and is below the national average, the group noted.

More than three dozen school districts that together educate more than two-thirds of the state's 1.5 million public school students have chose to close classrooms to allow for the show of strength by the teachers and their advocacy group. "We need to get behind our students now or accept that the way things are is how they'll stay". The gathering in uptown was a way for those teachers to still have their voices heard, she said.

- Invest more in spending per student. So regardless of the party affiliation, what we are seeing from this movement is that citizens love their public schools.

"Especially as a science teacher, we're looking at books that are fourteen years old, and they keep telling us, 'Oh, well you can go digital.' Well, you can't go digital when you're looking at a four-student-to-one-computer ratio", she says. "But how do we pay for it?" said Cooper in a speech to the crowd.

Teachers are now scheduled to receive a six-percent pay raise next year, but Cooper is calling on state legislators to bump that pay increase to eight percent.

But with the Great Recession in the past and the state's financial stability restored, teachers say it's time to catch up on deferred school spending. Their pay increased by 4.2 percent over the previous year - the second-biggest increase in the country - and was estimated to rise an average 1.8 percent this year, the NEA said.

Republican legislators have focused on increasing pay based on merit, rather than treating all teachers as if they were equally productive, he said.

"There is usually not this much excitement during the short session, but its good to see this many folks turning out to support education which is critical to our state and critical to our workforce development", said Sec.

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