RALEIGH — In a spirited display, hundreds of teachers rallied in downtown Raleigh today against budget cuts expected in public schools.
Chanting "No more cuts!" and "Public schools!" the teachers, clad in red T-shirts, marched around a couple of blocks near the Raleigh Convention Center. More than 900 teachers and school staffers from across the state were in town for the annual convention of the N.C. Association of Educators, the statewide teachers group.
The convention is typically an indoor event with presentations, speeches and seminars. But this year's gathering was more emotional, because teachers and school staff fear substantial job cuts as the legislature tries to plug a $2.4 billion budget hole. At lunchtime, the teachers flooded out of the building, carrying signs with slogans such as, "Save our students," and "Schools or prisons. Is there really a choice?"
"Everybody is scared because of the economy," said Dee Sizemore, who teaches Algebra at Williams High School in Burlington. "It does not just affect us and our jobs. It affects hundreds of thousands of students. Those students represent the future. That should make anyone passionate."
Association leaders urged state lawmakers to keep the 1-cent sales tax increase that is set to expire this year, which would lessen the severity of budget cuts. Republicans have said they want to let the tax expire.
At the meeting, the association released a report that said North Carolina ranks 46th in the country in per-pupil spending and 45th in average teacher salary -- the lowest ranking in 64 years.