"I hope that they know that they have been listened to", said Republican State Representative Andy Dulin from Charlotte.
This afternoon, protesters will assemble on Bicentennial Plaza for the Rally for Respect, where a lineup of education leaders and other guests will offer their perspective on the state of education in North Carolina.
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 chose to give corporations and high-income households next January. "Public education is the economy in North Carolina".
Amy says, " many veteran teachers have had pay freezes so on our current pay scale they won't make any more money, so this is about advocating for the resources and funds that our students deserve". Several sources said North Carolina is putting the finishing touches on an incentives package for a major Apple investment in the state, including thousands of high-paying jobs in the Triangle.
"It's become a struggle every day when you don't have what you need to be able to equip these young folks with what they need", William Powell, a middle school teacher in Raleigh, told ABC station WTVD-TV as he and scores of other educators marched down Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh.
"According to the NEA, North Carolina Ranked #2 in the USA for fastest rising teacher pay in 2017", Republican Senator Phil Berger, president pro tempore, said in a comment on Twitter posted during the march.
Ahead of Wednesday's event, Republican lawmakers said they have provided teachers with salary increases over each of the past four years and wrote a pay increase for 2018-2019 into the biennial budget passed last year.
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Wednesday's event is "the beginning of a six-month stretch of time to hold our legislators accountable for prioritizing corporate tax cuts, instead of our classrooms", and work toward the ultimate goal of "electing more pro-public education leaders in North Carolina to return our state back to a beacon for public schools", the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) said in a statement that laid out a list of expectations for lawmakers.
The teachers are urging lawmakers to invest more per student in spending until it reaches the national average.
The one-day labor action caused numerous school districts across the state to cancel classes for more than 1 million students. The gathering in uptown was a way for those teachers to still have their voices heard, she said.
Teachers also filled a plaza outside the legislative building amid chants of "Red for Ed" backed by school marching bands. So regardless of the party affiliation, what we are seeing from this movement is that citizens love their public schools.
The demands of NCAE 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. "It's the children, and we have to have a heart for our children", he said. They've also called for more school nurses, psychologists, and counselors. Adjusted for inflation, state funding for North Carolina schools has fallen almost 8 percent since the recession hit. 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.
The members say that they had a good story to share with teachers in addition to the five consecutive pay raises. "I support the message that you're bringing".