Forest View teachers joined thousands from across North Carolina May 16 to ask lawmakers for higher pay and more money for school resources.
The March for Students and Rally for Respect, timed to coincide with the first day of the new session of the General Assembly, created traffic backups and parking problems throughout downtown. An estimated 20,000 people attended, according to news reports.
The day included a teacher march to the legislative office buildings on Jones Street and an afternoon rally nearby. Teachers organized the rally to both raise teacher pay and funding for public school resources.
Durham was one of at least 40 public school districts to close because so many teachers indicated interest in attending the rally.
Downtown Raleigh was awash in red, with teachers, students and other supporters wearing that color to show their appreciation for the cause. Many teachers brought their spouses, their children – and even their dogs.
“The amount of people – you just felt so supported and so hopeful,” said Sylvia Perry, a Forest View fifth grade teacher. “Public schools is a passion to teachers who teach in them. We believe it’s the foundation of our country. You need to have an educated population. So I felt very inspired and hopeful to see thousands and thousands of people there. Everywhere I looked, there was red.” An associated Twitter hashtag, #redfored, adorned buses bringing groups of teachers to the event from other counties. Traffic backed up for miles both on Interstate 40 and roads closer to downtown, prompting some participants to walk along the highway to get into the city. The march itself jammed the center of downtown as teachers walked along Salisbury Street, past the state capitol, and to the Jones Street headquarters of the General Assembly.
“My favorite part during the march was looking back at the street behind me,” Perry said. “I couldn’t see the end of it. And that was pretty inspiring.”
Teachers are rallying for better pay and more school resources, with the goal of raising both average teacher salaries and per-pupil spending to the national average. North Carolina ranks 37th nationally for teacher pay and 39th in the per-pupil spending – the amount it budgets for each student – according to the National Education Association.
In Raleigh, there are already dueling budget proposals, each of which would deliver higher pay to teachers.
Republican leaders are proposing a six percent pay increase that will emphasize targeted bonuses for high performance and those teachers working in high-demand subjects,
A proposal from Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, would include an 8 percent pay raise for teachers as part of a plan to eventually reach the national average.