The thousands of North Carolina teachers participating in Wednesday's protest in Raleigh will still be paid for the day, but some might lose $50 for not showing up to teach their classes.
Teachers across North Carolina are using a personal day or a vacation day to attend the "March for Students and Rally for Respect," the largest act of organized teacher political action in state history. Personal days and vacation days come with pay.
Teachers aren't allowed to use vacation days, called annual leave, when classes are in session. So organizers of Wednesday's march encouraged teachers to use a provision in state law that allows them to take personal leave with at least five days' advance notice — as long as a substitute is available and the teacher pays a $50 "required substitute deduction."
"Our goal is to overwhelm the system with absences so that the district considers closing school for the day, allowing educators to go to Raleigh," says the May16.org website created by event organizers.
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In Wake County alone, more than 2,500 of the district's 10,359 teachers had their personal leave days approved by their principal,
So many teachers requested personal days that at least 42 school districts, including the Wake County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Durham, Johnston County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school systems.. are turning Wednesday into an optional teacher workday. Around 1,043,000 public school students, or 68 percent of the state's enrollment, have Wednesday off.
By canceling classes on Wednesday, those 38 school districts aren't requiring teachers to pay the $50 fee. Teachers coming to the march from the 70+ school districts that are still holding classes Wednesday will have to pay the $50 fee for a sub to replace them.
Critics, including some Republican lawmakers, have accused teachers of engaging in something close to a one-day strike, which is illegal under state law. But groups such as the North Carolina Association of Educators, which is organizing the march, say teachers are doing what's allowed under state law.
More than 15,000 teachers signed up to attend the rally, but it's unclear how many will take the day off and come to the march.
In a message sent last week to Wake County school employees, the district said any employees who wanted to work Wednesday could do so. Wake said teachers who don't report to work Wednesday have to use leave time or a personal day or they won't get paid.