Thousands of educators march in Raleigh and demand respect
Public school teachers across North Carolina are being urged to take May 1 off from work to march in Raleigh in a repeat of last year’s historic protest.
Delegates at the N.C. Association of Educators’ annual convention voted Saturday to hold a “day of action” on May 1 to lobby lawmakers on issues such as raises for school employees; hiring more school counselors, social workers and nurses and expanding Medicaid. If the march is as big as last year’s it could result again in the majority of students having the day off from school.
Organizers hope to build on last year’s May 16 rally, where more than 19,000 teachers and their supporters marched, filled the legislative building and rallied for political change. The N.C. Association of Educators, the largest teachers group in the state, says the march helped break the Republican legislative supermajority in the fall elections.
Mark Jewell, president of NCAE, proposed the second march on Friday, telling NCAE delegates at this year’s annual convention that they “still have enemies on Jones Street.” He said “it’s time we paid them another visit.”
“This is the will of the educators across the state of North Carolina,” Jewell said in an interview Monday. “We’ve heard time and time again that education must be the top priority for the General Assembly. We’re not hearing that from the current General Assembly.”
The announcement follows recent news such as average pay for North Carolina teachers rising to nearly $54,000 a year and 29th in the nation, according to the National Education Association.
Senate Ralph Hise, a Republican from Spruce Pine and deputy president pro tempore, said Monday that teachers “are paying dues to fund NCAE leadership’s far-left political vanity projects.”
“Apparently recognizing that Republican leadership has been great for teachers and students, the radical left-wing NCAE added Obamacare Medicaid expansion to its list of demands,” Hise said. “If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: The NCAE is a far-left political organization that uses the teachers and students it purports to represent as a tool to advance its leaders’ unrelated political agenda.
“North Carolina teacher pay has grown at the third-highest rate in the entire country over the last five years, and teachers absolutely deserve it. Yet the NCAE leadership is still calling for a strike on May 1st.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, was more supportive of the new rally.
“Last year, thousands of educators marched to the General Assembly to demand help for our schools,” said Jamal Little, a spokesman for Cooper. “Governor Cooper will continue to listen to teachers and fight for the pay and respect they deserve.”
The May 1 event could again have repercussions for families. Last year’s event led to more than 1 million public school students having the day off because schools said they couldn’t find enough substitute teachers to hold classes.
NCAE is urging teachers to put in their request now for personal days on May 1. Normally teachers would lose $50 to pay for a substitute teacher to replace them that day, but at least 42 of the state’s 115 school districts, including Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, opted to close for last year’s rally so no payroll deduction was required.
“So go ahead and put in your personal day for May 1 and ready your marching shoes,” Charlotte-Mecklernburg teacher Justin Parmenter wrote on his blog Sunday. “Encourage your colleagues to do the same. Let’s stand up and fight for the public schools our children deserve.”
Jewell said he expects school districts to be just as supportive as last year. He also thinks this year’s turnout will be at least as large as last year’s protest.
“We anticipate they’ll do what’s in the best interests of their school districts and they’ll do what’s right for their school employees, who are fighting to provide them enough resources,” Jewell said.
This year’s demands are:
▪ Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standard,
▪ Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5 percent raise for all school employees and a 5 percent cost of living adjustment for retirees.
▪ Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families.
▪ Reinstate state retiree health benefits for teachers who will be hired after 2021.
▪ Restore extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees such as a master’s degree.
“We know that it’s very early in the process for planning of the budget,” Jewell said. “The Governor has put together a very progressive budget.
“We’ve heard little coming from the House and Senate. We are gathering to let the know what our priorities are at NCAE and that we’re going to hold them accountable.”