What's happened since May's March for Students and Rally for Respect

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- It's been three months since thousands of teachers from across North Carolina rallied in the Capitol in attempt to grab the attention of state lawmakers in the Rally for Respect.

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As we approach the start of the traditional calendar school year, many are left to wonder if the rally made any significant difference.

More than one-third of North Carolina schools closed their doors on May 16, including three of the state's largest districts.

Key takeaways that teachers and leaders with the North Carolina Association of Educators aimed to highlight were:

  • Increase in per-pupil spending
  • Increase in teacher pay
  • Sending a message to lawmakers that don't put education first

When it comes to per-pupil spending, Mark Jewel, President of the NCAE said: "This general assembly only increase student spending by six-tenths of a percent this year and that's when we have tens of thousands of new students."

Terry Stoops, Vice President for research at the John Locke Foundation offered a counterview.

"Since the recession, we have from the 40s in per-pupil spending and teaching pay rankings to the 30," Stoops said, "... so we have seen gains made that's due to what the general assembly has been willing to budget for public education."

When it comes to teacher pay, the North Carolina Justice Center said teacher pay has fallen 5.6 percent since the 2008-2009 fiscal year - when adjusted for inflation.

The state did pass a budget over the summer, despite a veto from Governor Roy Cooper, that included a $700 million increase in public education, a principal pay raise, and a fifth consecutive pay raise for teachers on average of 6.5 percent.

But, not all teachers will see a pay increase.

"Most of those raises will be concentrated on teachers with 5-15 years experience," Stoops said.

Even so, the NCAE maintained their stance that the rally was about more than just pay.

"It's not right that we have 35 kids in a fourth-grade classroom," Jewell said. "It's not right that we have a huge teacher shortage with about 2,000 teacher vacancies, and we're $2,500 per-pupil spending below the national average."

The focus now for the NCAE is in November. The group said that of its members, more than 80 percent vote.

The NCAE said that it will endorse candidates - on both the left and the right - that will fight for education.