Educators from around the state arrived by busload beginning around 8 a.m. They gathered at the headquarters of the North Carolina Association of Educators on the southside of downtown Raleigh. They wore red in solidarity of their slogan "red for ed", and carried a wide array of signs expressing their grievances.
They demanded more funding for the schools so they can teach their kids, better pay for themselves and support staffers, and an end to the corporate tax cuts that robbed Tar Heel state schools of money for at least the past decade.
The North Carolina General Assembly has opened its annual session with thousands of teachers and their allies inside and outside the Legislative Building.
The North Carolina Association of Educators says they will turn their focus to the November election. "Or are they the type of people who continue to give them to corporations?" she said.
It wasn't just teachers marching on Wednesday. They were joined by counselors and support staff who expressed their grievances as well.
Protests in Kentucky began in late March when a pension reform bill, giving legislators authority to alter pension funds for new teachers, was unexpectedly approved by the State House and Senate.
The sea of red descended on the state legislative building ahead of the start of the General Assembly's short session, which began at noon. "Look at these thousands of people". Those that did get in tried frantically to find their legislators. This is a significant victory for the state's teachers who are among the nation's lowest paid. "I say let's use that $110 million instead to raise teacher pay", Cooper said, drawing a big cheer.
But these Republican leaders appear determined not to change course under pressure, and North Carolina educators aren't unionized, so they have fewer options for organized protest than teachers in some of these other states.
Democratic lawmakers like Senator Floyd McKissick, who represents Durham, were supportive.
State Rep. Garland Pierce, whose district includes Scotland County, said he hopes the march and rally are successful in moving lawmakers to act. But Republican Representative John Torbett of Gaston County was skeptical. He said he woudl not consider an increase in taxes. "I think it would be wrong to think of teachers are a monolithic voting block".
Diane Gibson is a teacher at North Gaston High School in Gaston County.
"We want funding for our schools and funding for our kids", said Cannon. And he is committed to looking at some things. Now, we can all agree that veterans deserve benefits and are a valued part of society, but should we really be spending more than double the amount of money on veterans than we are on the education of our future American leaders? And some things he was not willing to do.
He says if coupled with what has occurred extra not too long ago, by way of more cash being out there, these raises disproportionately have been pushed towards starting lecturers.
"We trust you as teachers", Cooper told educators during Wednesday afternoon's rally.
In a Tuesday press conference, lawmakers said the average teacher pay will grow to $53,000, not including local supplements or bonuses, an increase from the current average salary of $49,000, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics.
"We all know that is greater than about instructor pay". Stephen Fells is an American history teacher at James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro.
North Carolina's main teachers' advocacy group favors Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's proposal to raise salaries by delaying planned tax cuts.
Legislators are expected to work quickly on the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget, with Senate and House leaders announcing last week that they've already agreed to a almost $24 billion spending target. "If we had been seeing the systems and cycles change then those individuals wouldn't have to be here". Sari Diaz, a first-year teacher in Onslow County, said Wednesday that teachers are spending hundreds or more dollars every year on classroom supplies and curriculum support. "This will not stop as it didn't stop in Oklahoma, West Virginia or Arizona".
At The Tech Talk, we believe education should be higher on the totem pole of USA spending and should result in more discretionary funding and higher wages for teachers.