Teachers rally for pay increase as state budget stalemate persists

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Dozens of teachers and support staff gathered in the bitter cold outside their schools Wednesday morning, some dressed in the red that's associated now with their demand for higher pay.

At Forest View Elementary in Durham, they circled a flagpole several times, chanting while other supporters handed out information to parents driving up to deliver children to school.

Michelle Burton, the president of the Durham Association of Educators, said the two percent raise for teachers and $1,000 bonus for school staff in the legislative bill vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper fall far short of what's needed now.

"We're saying to them, 'Are our children important or are the corporations in our state important?' We're saying, 'Put our children first,' and that's why we're standing behind Governor Cooper to have a fully-funded budget," Burton said.

A mass march by teachers from several North Carolina districts who traveled to Raleigh back in May raised the same issue. We saw similar activity outside Harris Creek Elementary in Raleigh Wednesday, where teacher's assistant Heather Pew told us she's underpaid.

"I have two bachelor's degrees. I make $13 an hour to be a TA. I'm here by choice. I'm the child of educators. It will take me 13 years to get a step increase of one dollar," Harris Creek teacher's assistant Heather Pew said.

But when asked if demonstrators expect the activity can convince lawmakers to provide the increases they demand, Burton said, "We're just gonna keep being persistent. 2020 is right around the corner and you know, teachers and educators vote!"

She and others are encouraged by parents who leaned on car horns when asked to honk if they support the appeal for better teacher pay.

"We don't want to disrupt class time," Burton said as the teachers returned to their classes after the brief demonstration, "but we also believe that we have to get this message out some way, somehow."
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