N.C. teach­ers want more fund­ing, but leg­isla­tive lead­ers are balk­ing

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - WEATHER DESK -

RALEIGH, N.C. — Thou­sands of teach­ers filled the main street of North Carolina’s cap­i­tal Wed­nes­day de­mand­ing bet­ter pay and more fund­ing for pub­lic schools, hop­ing to achieve what other ed­u­ca­tors around the coun­try ac­com­plished by pres­sur­ing law­mak­ers for change.

City blocks turned red, the color of shirts worn by marchers chant­ing “We care! We vote!” and “This is what democ­racy looks like!” An es­ti­mated 19,000 peo­ple joined the march, ac­cord­ing to the Down­town Raleigh Al­liance, which based its num­ber in part on aerial pho­tos.

Many teach­ers en­tered the Leg­isla­tive Build­ing, con­tin­u­ing to chant as the Repub­li­can-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture held short floor meet­ings to start its an­nual work ses­sion. Most teach­ers qui­eted down when asked, but a woman who yelled “Ed­u­ca­tion is a right! That is why we have to fight!” was among four es­corted from the Se­nate gallery. No ar­rests were made.

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 de­cided to give cor­po­ra­tions and high-in­come house­holds in Jan­uary.

Cooper, who is work­ing to elim­i­nate the GOP’s ve­to­proof ma­jori­ties in fall elec­tions, urged teach­ers to ask law­mak­ers, “Are you go­ing to sup­port even more tax cuts for cor­po­ra­tions and the very wealthy, or are you go­ing to sup­port much bet­ter teacher pay and in­vest­ment in our pub­lic schools?”

Pre­vi­ous strikes, walk­outs and protests in West Vir­ginia, Ari­zona, Ken­tucky, Colorado and Ok­la­homa led leg­is­la­tors in each state to im­prove pay, ben­e­fits or over­all school fund­ing. 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 the other states.

State Se­nate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Repub­li­cans, have made clear they have no plans to fun­nel more money to class­rooms by post­pon­ing Jan­uary’s tax cuts, as Cooper has pro­posed. And Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beau­fort, said he thinks Wed­nes­day’s march was mostly about sup­port­ing the Demo­cratic Party in a po­lit­i­cal sea­son.

The de­mands of the teach­ers’ 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.

North Carolina teach­ers earn about $50,000 on av­er­age, rank­ing 39th in the coun­try last year, the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion re­ported last month.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

North Carolina teach­ers earn about $50,000 a year on av­er­age, rank­ing them 39th in the coun­try last year.

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