Over 20,000 teachers, principals, students, and families from all over North Carolina flooded downtown Raleigh wearing red on May 16, demanding that lawmakers increase teachers' pay, along with an increase in funding to be able to provide for students' educational needs. "We vote", Lyde said. They held up signs advocating for their cause, some of which played on memes or popular culture. "Veteran teachers are pretty much falling through the cracks". She said one counselor for a school of 500 is not enough when a growing number of students are coming in broken.
"Sharks are swimming around us, we need to be saved", said Quin Dionne, an art teacher at Concord High School. Teachers want better pay and better working conditions. "If I've learned anything, teachers don't teach for incomes, teachers teach for outcomes". "I hope that this will send the General Assembly a clear message that we are willing to stand up for our students". "And voters will make up their minds about what story they want to believe".
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. Republican leaders have flatly rejected his idea but an incensed crowd sided with Cooper as they chanted his name and pushed through crowds of people to shake his hand.
"We are stepping up and standing up for our kids", one teacher told NBC Charlotte.
"We need to have sufficient resources for these babies".
Cooper said the event also touched a personal note for him.
"I emphasized that point with every educator I spoke to", Graham said. "She was a public school teacher in Nash County".
Students at the demonstration
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".
Using the Twitter hashtag #ItsPersonal, the protest marked the sixth state to go on strike since West Virginia teachers successfully struck in March, highlighting low salaries and poorly funded public schools.
In Puerto Rico, thousands of teachers walked out of classes in March to protest the cash-strapped government's plan to shut down more than 300 schools this year as the unincorporated USA territory struggles to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in September.
The demands of their main advocacy group, the North Carolina Association of Educators, include raising per-pupil spending and pay for teachers and support staff to the national average, and increasing school construction to match the state's population growth.
Barbara Faulkner, a South Granville High School English teacher who makes $53,000 per year, said a house she owned went into foreclosure because she had planned her spending around a seniority-based raise plan that was stopped a decade ago.
Although the Wednesday rally is the only action of its kind now on the slate for North Carolina's teachers, both Wood and Speight said that it's "just the beginning" of the backlash coming to lawmakers when the polls open in November. 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, but that still represents a 9.4 percent slide in real income since 2009 due to inflation, the NEA said.
On Tuesday, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said that budget leaders in the House and Senate are ready to approve at least a 6.2 percent increase in teacher salaries for the next year.
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