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CMS cancels classes for May 1 because of planned teacher protest in Raleigh

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School officials have decided to cancel classes May 1, in anticipation of teacher absences due to a protest rally in Raleigh expected to draw thousands of educators from across the state.

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox told the school board this week that more than 1,200 CMS teachers and 100 support staff have asked to have May 1 off so they can travel to the state capital and lobby state legislators for increased funding and other needs.

Wilcox told the board it would be tough to fill that many vacancies for the day, the Charlotte Observer reported this week.

The number expected to attend the rally has since gone up to nearly 2,000 staffers seeking to take off, and CMS officials said they expect the number to go even higher as the event nears.

CMS said in a release that Wilcox has designated May 1 “an optional teacher workday for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.”

The district will waive attendance requirements and there will be no make-up day, said a release. All classroom tests will be re-scheduled, but high school athletic events will take place as scheduled, officials said.

“The powerful voices of educators change student lives every day in classrooms across our community,” Wilcox said in a release. “Together, their collective voice will change communities across our state on May 1 as they advocate for investments in public education that matter most to our students and their futures.”

CMS closed for a similar teacher march in May 2018, after about 2,000 of the district’s teachers said they planned to attend, the Charlotte Observer reported last year. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance estimated nearly 20,000 educators from around the state attended the event last year, reported the News & Observer.

Wilcox said he worked with the school board in making his decision. The district based its decision in part on the fact that many teachers and staff in the district were taking personal leave days in order to join the event in Raleigh, Wilcox said.

“The safety, security and quality of teaching and learning are top priorities for CMS because these are fundamental expectations shared by our community’s students, families and staff every day,” Wilcox said in a release. “At this time, we cannot guarantee sufficient substitute-teacher capacity to ensure these priorities.”

The All Out for Public Education gathering in Raleigh is organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators, and NCAE President Mark Jewell said he expects heavy teacher absences May 1, reported the Charlotte Observer on Tuesday.

The association wants legislators to set a $15 per hour minimum wage for all school staff, and a 5 percent raise for non-certified staff, teachers and administrators, the Observer reported. Other demands include hiring more school librarians, social workers, nurses and other health professional to meet national standards.

Educators are also asking the state to expand Medicaid and reinstate state retiree health benefits.