N.C. schools close as thousands of teachers walk out for more funding

By Sara Shayanian  |  May 16, 2018 at 8:27 AM
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May 16 (UPI) -- Teachers in North Carolina planned a walkout Wednesday to push for more education funding, following a national movement that's seen other educators do the same in recent months.

Thousands of teachers were set to walk from the North Carolina Association of Educators office in Raleigh to the North Carolina State Legislative Building, in what's being called March for Students. Later, teachers will hold a "Rally for Respect" in the capital.

Hundreds of schools were expected to close for the walkouts Wednesday, with the Wake County Public School System -- the largest in the state -- among those canceling classes altogether.

As many as 15,000 teachers are expected in the march and rally, and will meet with lawmakers to ask for higher teacher salaries and more classroom resources.

The North Carolina Association of Educators said its ultimate goal is to elect more pro-public education leaders.

"It's the beginning of a six-month stretch of time to hold our legislators accountable for prioritizing corporate tax cuts instead of our classrooms," the group said in a statement.

The teachers want greater in per-student spending, a multi-year pay plan for teachers and staff, more school nurses, counselors and social workers and a statewide school construction board to fix schools falling into disrepair.

Wednesday's event follows similar walkouts in recent months in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arizona. Earlier this month, tens of thousands in the University of California school system walked out over a pay dispute.

"North Carolina public school educators, parents, and our communities demand better for our students," NCAE President Mark Jewell said. "These specific public education priorities will give every student an opportunity to succeed and help recruit and retain educators as we face a critical shortage in our classrooms and school buildings."

Not everyone is supportive of the rally. State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who's said teacher strikes are illegal, called the protests "fairly typical union activity."

"There is no question that the NCAE is very closely aligned with the Democratic party in North Carolina," Berger said. "Much of what we're hearing is politically motivated."

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said last week teacher pay has improved.

"We are on the right track, and I am pleased teachers will receive another raise next year," he said.

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