More than a third of North Carolina's public school students will have a holiday this Wednesday as schools close for teachers to attend the "March for Students and Rally for Respect" on the opening day of the General Assembly's summer session in Raleigh.
The state's three largest school systems are among those closing: Wake County in Raleigh, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Guilford County (Greensboro). In our area, the Gaston County and Hickory City Schools will have an optional teacher workday. While Lincoln County Schools, Catawba County Schools and Cleveland County Schools will all have classes as scheduled, many teachers are taking a personal day to attend the rally.
With problems having enough personnel to hold classes, Caldwell County Schools joined the list on Tuesday. Systems that have announced closures include:
Chatham County Schools
Durham Public Schools
Franklin County Schools
Hickory Public Schools
Mooreville Graded School District
New Hanover County
Wilson County Schools
Vance County Schools
The Advocacy Day schedule, according to the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) will begin at 9:45 AM when those attending will meet at NCAE Headquarters, 700 S. Salisbury St. in Raleigh. At 10:00 AM, the gathering, expected to number several thousand, will begin a march from NCAE Headquarters to the Legislative Building. The march should take about 25 minutes.
At 10:45 AM, as many as can will enter the Legislative Building and start assembling on 3rd Floor. Because of recently installed metal detectors, that process will likely take over an hour.
The General Assembly convenes at noon and educators will by then have packed the galleries. NCAE members have been asked to make appointments with their local representatives for lunch.
At 3:00 the group will start assembling on the Bicentennial Plaza across from the Legislative Building for the part of the day's activities known as the Rally for Respect, which is scheduled to begin at 3:30. The rally will conclude at 4:30 and participants will make their way back to NCAE Headquarters.
According to the NCAE: North Carolina's per student spending is about $2,400 behind the national average; North Carolina ranks 37th for teacher pay, about $9,600 behind the national average. When adjusting for inflation, educators are losing money (almost 12 percent)—the third worst in the country.
The NCAE says Wednesday's march is just the beginning of a six month effort aimed at:
- Significant investment in per-pupil spending
- A multi-year professional pay plan for educators, education support professionals, administrators and all other school personnel, including restoration of compensation for advanced degrees and longevity
- Investing in the health and well-being of our students and making schools safer through increased school nurses, counselors, social workers and other support personnel and expansion of Medicaid
- Money for capital improvements to schools and to reduce class sizes with a Statewide School Construction Bond
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore of Shelby and NC Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger held a joint news conference Tuesday afternoon. Moore touted the General Assembly's spending for education under the Republican majority that has controlled the legislature since 2011. "This year will mark the 5th consecutive year we've raised teacher pay," Moore said. "We had the second biggest increase in teacher pay in the nation this year; we were #1 in the country last year. Next year, the average teacher pay in North Carolina will be $53,600--and that's before local supplements are added." Moore said the average teacher pay had increased $8600 compared to 2013-14 and that more than half of the state's teachers got a raise of over $10 thousand. He said the state's spending on public education is the 11th largest in the nation.
What Moore did not say is what Lincoln County Superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow told County Commissioners in making her budget presentation for next school year--that per pupil spending has actually declined by 50% over the last decade and that money for textbooks and classroom supplies have been cut.
One state representative, Mark Brody, who represents Union and Anson counties, posted on Facebook last Friday that "Union County teachers chose to inconvenience near 30,000 parents in order to pressure the General Assembly to increase their pay!"
Brody continued "The hypocrisy is that they say they are supporting the students. One less day of instruction does not help students. Teaching our children that it is OK to not show up for work does not set a good example. And, if you can make the assumption that teachers have achieved a level of education where they can make well thought out decisions, why is it that they cannot figure out that in about 3 weeks the school year will be over and the legislature will still be in session?"
Dana Avery, the president of the Lincoln County Schools NCAE chapter, who teaches at Love Memorial School told us: "The reason NCAE chose today instead of after school is that in the past when we’ve met for lobby days the budget had already been finalized. Today is the opening session and we want our voices and concerns heard before the budget is discussed. We want to be apart of the process.
"This day is not just about salary. These are teachers who love the children they teach and want the absolute best for them. Our children DESERVE every opportunity that we can give them. There should be proper funding for materials, technology, safe buildings, smaller class size, the hiring of new teachers, and assistants. All of these things are for the children. Teachers became teachers to make a difference in children’s lives. We just want and need the ability to do that. Schools must have adequate funding.
"I am so proud of the Lincoln County teachers making this trip with me today and the ones staying back wearing red to support this Advocacy Day for our Students. We are not abandoning our children by attending this rally. We are showing how much we love our children! Today is the day teachers across NC show our legislators that we do care, we do have a voice, and we will stand up for our children."
One Gaston County teacher who is also making the trip to Raleigh on Wednesday told us, "it isn't just about pay. They've increased the money for vouchers so more people can send their kids to private schools. We're taking money out of our pockets to pay for classrooms supplies--even with parents doing various projects to pay for what we need but the state isn't funding. It isn't just about us--it's about the kids."CLICK HERE
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