Leslie Rhinehart is a Polk County teacher and she says, "we all went into teaching knowing salaries would be low // I have a masters in chemistry and worked in the industry for a bit. but I chose teaching for my student". Don Davis, D-Pitt.
To work around vacation day rules, the newspaper reports, "organizers of Wednesday's march encouraged teachers to use a provision in state law that allows them to take personal leave with at least five days" advance notice-as long as a substitute is available and the teacher pays a $50 "required substitute deduction.'" Dozens of districts canceled classes, meaning those educators won't be forced to pay the sub fee. One said, "Teacher (noun): an endangered species", while another simply demanded the state "Make Education Great Again". "They deserve safe schools and schools that are not crumbling and in disrepair". They carried signs from the serious - "Put public education first" - to the humorous - "There's nearly as many people here as in my classroom".
That illustrates legislative leaders' advantage in being able to out wait public opposition, even with state budget amendment negotiations in full swing and the expressed hope of ending the session by the Fourth of July. House floor debate on the bill is scheduled Thursday.
The lack of trust in public statements from both sides was evident.
Carolynn Phillips, a middle school arts teacher from coastal Brunswick County who was named the county's Teacher of the Year for 2018, called the protest a cry for respect from teachers whose pay ranks toward the bottom of US states. "Veteran teachers have been skipped over the past several years". "We know you are critical for the success of our schools, but we have to be willing to prioritize it and pay for it", he said.
As the march started, teachers were energized and chanting "remember, remember we vote in November", while carrying signs, some of which said "money can't buy us happiness, but it can buy working technology, books, copiers and copy paper, basic school supplies, teachers and support staff, working AC units and plumbing, a way out of a second job, money to spend on our own children, and a savings for retirement".
In the office of Republican Representative Kelly Hastings, a group of teachers talked about the need for more teacher assistants.
North Carolina ranks 37th in teacher pay and is below the national average, the group noted.
Students at the demonstration
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.
"I never really participated in a rally before, I don't really like animosity", she said. "It's not, and shouldn't be, a partisan issue".
Cooper said his mother was a public school teacher and added, "if she were still here, she would have put her red dress on and have been standing with you fighting for her students".
"When we don't invest the dollars, we don't get the best teachers because we are not paying the best salaries", Holloway said.
Kenely said it was her first time coming to the legislature. She says her classroom isn't connected to the school, and 25 years ago she was told it was supposed to be temporary. "For them to see their teachers and the people in their community out advocating for them and to make positive changes in their community, I don't think there's a better lesson that they could learn".
"They keep giving tiny raises and taking so much away from the kids", Holdridge said outside the Legislative Building. Whether they'll get more respect remains to be seen.
They are all pushing for the same outcome: more money in their pockets and in their classrooms.
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