NC teachers ask for a day off for rally, but NC superintendent asks them to reconsider date

As North Carolina school districts weigh whether to close May 1, when thousands of educators are expected to march in Raleigh, North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson is asking them to reconsider the date.

Johnson wrote a letter to educators Friday to ask them to consider alternatives to taking off May 1, including coming to Raleigh during spring break or in June, after the school year ends.

Last year, over 19,000 teachers marched through Raleigh on May 16 to express their concerns to lawmakers, and at least 42 of North Carolina’s 115 school districts closed for the march last year.

The N.C. Association of Educators has scheduled this year’s march Wednesday, May 1, to focus on issues like raises, expanding Medicaid and hiring more school counselors and nurses.

Johnson said he supports teachers advocating for the profession, but many students have already missed a lot of school this year during Hurricane Florence and due to snow days.

“More than 1 million students missed at least one day of school due to (Hurridcane) Florence alone – and more than 160,000 students missed 10 or more days because of that same storm,” Johnson said in the letter.

Johnson asked educators to consider what missing a day of work might mean for non-certified staff, who may miss out on paid hours.

“As you consider the different ways you can influence your state government, I ask that as an alternative to Wednesday, May 1, you consider taking action on a day when schools are not in session,” Johnson said.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School district became the first Triangle school district to give teachers the day off. The school district reported it had received more than 130 leave requests for May 1. The Board of Education voted unanimously at its April 4 meeting to make it a voluntary teacher work day.

“I appreciate the asks that are in the request,” said school board member James Barrett. “These are things that are clearly aimed for the benefit of our students and district, and I hope that our administration realizes that this isn’t about what you’ve done and your work. This is about the support our district needs from the state.”

“I’m also glad that it’s not over AP exams this year,” Barrett added.

Although many school districts have less flexibility to grant teacher work days because of inclement weather days, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools isn’t the first district to grant teachers this time off. The Dispatch in Lexington reports that Lexington city schools also will close May 1 to allow teachers to travel to Raleigh.

A spokesperson for Durham Public Schools said the district has received 499 leave requests for May 1 and is monitoring the situation.

Other issues on the march agenda include reinstating extra pay for teachers with an advanced degree, a 5% raise for employees and 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees, and ensuring a $15 minimum wage for anyone working in a school. The NCAE also is asking that schools fill positions like school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals, in order to meet national standards.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer