NC teachers prepare for Wednesday's rally in Raleigh

Michael Perchick Image
Sunday, April 28, 2019
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Teachers prepare for Wednesday's march in Raleigh

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A group of teachers spent Sunday afternoon at the North Carolina Association of Educators headquarters in Raleigh making signs, practicing chants and packing lunches for students who will be missing class ahead of Wednesday's rally.

"The educators in the state of North Carolina said we deserved better than this. So we are joined together," said NCAE President Mark Jewell.

RELATED: Wake, Johnston, Durham, Orange and Cumberland County schools to close May 1 as teachers plan rally

This year, 31 school districts will be closed as teachers, parents and students prepare to rally in downtown Raleigh. They have five major points:

  • More support staff
  • Medicaid expansion
  • $15 minimum wage
  • Reinstate retirement health benefits
  • Restore advanced degree compensation

Latesha Greene, a teacher at Conn Elementary in Raleigh, attended last year's march and will be back on Wednesday.

"I'm a product of the public school system, and my children are also a product of the public school system. So I'm here for change for the better. Not just for me and my kids, but for all children," said Greene, who showed up Sunday with her son Stephen, a 9th grader at Broughton.

Stephen said many of his friends are aware of the concerns teachers have voiced.

"I feel like there should be a big change in the school system," Stephen said. "I'm here today to just try to give back to the community."

Greene believes fellow teachers have either left the state or profession over issues with pay.

"I think when people go into the profession, it is for change. But when they feel like they're not appreciated, that leads them to move on," said Greene.

One key difference ahead of this year's rally: the make-up of the General Assembly.

"We wanted to make sure they knew that we wanted public education policy makers standing up for us, and they failed to do so last year. So we went to the ballot box on Nov. 6, and changed the policy makers. So now it's time to change the policy," said Jewell.

With Republicans no longer holding a veto-proof majority, Jewell believes lawmakers will have to take their concerns more seriously.

"The governor has held up public education, ran on it, was elected on it and put it in his budget every year. And now he can override the anti-public education legislation that may come forward. And Democrats and Republicans would have to sit down and negotiate," Jewell explained.

Despite this, the NCAE has faced some pushback ahead of this year's march. Some parents have taken issue with classes being cancelled, and Senate President Phil Berger has criticized the union's motives.

"The far-left NCAE has changed the goalposts year after year," said Berger in a statement.

He said the teachers union is "trying to mislead the public into thinking Republicans are bad for education," while noting that teachers in the state were awarded the third-highest pay raise in the nation over the last five years.

Jewell said Berger's claims have no validity, noting several areas he believes the state has fallen short in their support for educators.

On Sunday, Wayne County Public Schools announced they would be closed for the day, noting "the high number of teacher and staff absences." The day will be a teacher workday for staff.

The lunches packed by teachers during Sunday's gathering will be handed out to students on Tuesday.