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Teachers don't want needs overlooked as General Assembly meets

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Teachers hold a walk-in.

While House Bill 2 got the bulk of the attention Monday as state lawmakers returned to work for the North Carolina General Assembly's short session, teachers are hoping their needs don't get overlooked.

Some lawmakers say they believe the controversial bill will remain the focus, but others say the focus will be on the state budget - increasing wages for teachers and state workers, and reforming the tax code.

HB2 prevents transgender people from using the restroom they identify with. The bill also blocks people from filing discrimination suits against their employers and prevents local governments from setting minimum wage standards.

Activists and protestors on both sides of HB2 greeted lawmakers Monday - supporters rallied behind the Legislative Building while the Moral Monday Movement will hold a mass sit-in inside the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, some teachers at more than a dozen Durham schools held demonstrations of their own - with what organizers call a week of action.

It's coordinated by the North Carolina Association of Educators who cited the state's 46th place ranking nationwide in student spending as their motivation. They are calling for an increase in per-student spending to the national average. They also want to reduce class size and get better books and supplies.

"In order for us to be able to teach all these wonderful kids who are showing up every single day. We need money for books. We need desks. We need pens! We need paper, and these things are not available to us," said English teacher Mira Rahili.

Durham Schools Superintendent Bert L'Homme said he's not sure that the legislators understand the salary and supply challenges of North Carolina's teachers.

"But I think that this week what is happening, through our teachers union and through many of elected officials, that's what we believe is our task this week," he said.

Teachers and parents have scheduled more events, including Tuesday's call-in to "educate Governor McCrory on his devastating policies" and a grade-in, where they say they'll answer questions about what it's like to be an educator in this state today.

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