Teacher pack opening of legislative session in Raleigh

Protesters face arrest outside North Carolina General Assembly

Some of the teachers said they could not go because they work extra jobs or they have new family members they need to care for. Buoyed by the success of the West Virginia strike, teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona soon followed suit, closing down schools and flooding their state capitals to call for more funding.

Educators across the state walked out of schools and gathered for a rally in Raleigh in hopes that lawmakers will hear their calls for higher pay and funding for classroom resources they say have been diminished by a decade of cuts while major corporations have gotten tax breaks. It was $37,514 in North Carolina.

According to Rachel Holdridge, a special education teacher at Wilmington's Alderman Elementary School who also drives for Uber on the side to pay bills, lawmakers and state government "keep giving tiny raises and taking so much away from the kids". The March for Students and Rally for Respect starts at 10 a.m. and teachers will march from the North Carolina Association of Educators headquarters to the legislative building, enter the building, and begin meeting with legislators.

"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. It also wants the state to institute higher pay for teachers with advanced degrees and long tenures and to hire an additional 500 school nurses and counselors for the current school year.

Thousands of North Carolina teachers poured into downtown Raleigh and marched to the state's General Assembly on Wednesday morning in the latest in a series of red-state public school teacher uprisings across the country.

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Teachers and reporters posted photos, videos, and updates from Raleigh with the hashtags #RedforEd, #RedforEdNC, and #NCTeacherRally.

North Carolina teachers earn about $50,000 on average, ranking 39th in the country previous year, the National Education Association reported last month. At least 38 districts, representing more than half the state's 1.5 million public school students, canceled classes because of the protest.

Numerous teachers who crowded into Raleigh Wednesday went inside and crowded into the opening of the legislature's short session. "Now we need to put our money where our trust is", Cooper told cheering protesters in red T-shirts who filled a plaza outside the legislature.

Wood echoed the sentiment and said that in his district, students had gone so far as to organize voter registration rallies for seniors turning 18 this year so that they could help in the efforts to vote out incumbent politicians who vote against teachers' interests.

"According to the NEA, North Carolina Ranked #2 in the United States for fastest rising teacher pay in 2017", Republican Senator Phil Berger, president pro tempore, said on Twitter during the march.

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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. Per-student public school spending is down about 8 percent over the same period, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "We're grossly underfunding our schools", he said.

Teachers also are known for apples, and the Triangle might soon be as well. "It's the children, and we have to have a heart for our children", he said.

State lawmakers have already approved an average 6 percent raise for teachers next year. Teachers are photocopying assignments off the internet or from old workbooks because textbooks haven't been replenished in years, North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell said.

Conrad said she had supported public-school education her whole life.

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