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Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools closed ahead of teacher rally

Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools closed ahead of teacher rally

The group organizing Wednesday's mass teacher rally in Raleigh says it wants state lawmakers to sharply raise education spending _ including pay raises for all school employees _ and to reverse numerous education changes made in the past seven years.

After witnessing successful teacher walkouts and strikes across the nation this year, educators in North Carolina are poised for their moment in the spotlight.

Roughly 65 percent of schools in the state were closed Wednesday so teachers could attend the rally. "Unless we make a lot of noise, our representatives, the people in that building aren't going to listen to us, they are going to keep doing what they've been doing all along". Right now, North Carolina per pupil spending is 9% behind pre-recession levels.

That nastiness has been a part of the rollup to today's Teachers March on Raleigh, certainly.

Corey Mitchell, a teacher of over twenty years at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, fears that budget cuts and staffing limitations have led to a public school system that is ultimately unsustainable. The protest prompted at least 38 districts, representing more than half the state's 1.5 million public school students, to cancel classes.

"We're grossly underfunding our schools", he said. But, she said, "you've got to start somewhere". "They don't know whats happening in the classroom, but they can't audit themselves".

This afternoon, protesters will assemble on Bicentennial Plaza for the Rally for Respect, where a lineup of education leaders and other guests will offer their perspective on the state of education in North Carolina. She said lawmakers and state government have let teachers down by failing to equip them properly to do their job.

Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said the state is poised to cut taxes again this year and will lose an estimated $3.6 billion in revenue, meaning schools are likely to see more cuts.

Carolina Walker is running for N.C. Senate in District 35.

The protest continues a wave of walkouts this year by teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado who said lawmakers have failed to adequately pay teachers and provide for schools.

There are now 37 school districts that have closed to allow teachers the opportunity to attend the rally, which makes the point that this is more a movement than a protest. "I just feel like there's no equity across the board with public schools, which is really important to me because I want my kids to have the same opportunities that kids in other places have", she told Teen Vogue.

Berger says the difference is an average of $8,600 - or a 19-percent increase - compared to the 2013-14 school year.

Republican lawmakers have launched a website called www.ncteacherraise.com in response to show the raises teachers have received in recent years.

"Its been a good day, I've enjoyed meeting people and talked with constituents", said Rep. Mitchell Setzer (R-Catawba). It helps the process.

Teachers say that they intend to mobilize and keep a focus on legislators now backtracking on their promises.

Tamika Walker Kelly is one of those teachers who's ready to fight.

Wearing red and with messages such as "Respect Public Education" on their shirts and signs, as many as 15,000 teachers from around the state were expected to participate in the march starting at 10:30 a.m. Police were already posted along the route through downtown to the General Assembly, where predominantly Republican lawmakers were beginning their annual session the same day.

According to the National Education Association, North Carolina teachers ranked 39th in average teacher pay past year, with an average salary of $49,970. Your biggest legislative support comes from the Republican State legislature.


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