Downtown Raleigh was filled on Wednesday morning with thousands of teachers marching Fayetteville Street into federal state legislature to demand that legislators do more to increase North Carolina's teaching and education spending.
The "March for Students and Rally for Respect," the largest act of organized political action by teachers in the history of the state, is expected to attract 20,000 people. The historic, all-day event means that more than one million public school students have a day off because schools can not find enough substitute teachers to keep schools open to classes.
Protesters almost all wear red to show support for teachers, chanting slogans like "That's what democracy looks like" and "What do we do when public education is attacked? We fight back."
Under the signs were "NC teachers are superheroes" and "I should not I have to marry a sugar dad to teach in North Carolina."
Ruth Johnsen, the orchestra teacher at Ligon Middle School in Raleigh, brought a drum to shake up the crowd.
"I'm here for respect," said Johnsen. "Educators must be respected, it's not an expense, it's an investment."
Reid Guthrie from the city of Siler said that although he is not a teacher, he stands with them. "It's important to show my support for the teachers and to show the legislature that it's not about teachers being greedy or thugs."
The North Carolina Association of Educators, the Event, state legislators urge raising the number of teachers and per-student spending to the national average over the next four years and companies to freeze tax cuts until it happens. Their platform also calls for a nationwide $ 1.9 billion referendum on school building bonds.
"North Carolina teachers, parents and communities are demanding better performance for our students," said NCAE President Mark Jewell in a statement. "These specific public education priorities give each student the opportunity to be successful and to recruit and retain educators when we have a critical lack in our classrooms and school buildings."
Dahlresma Marks-Evans, a teacher at Lucas Middle School in Durham, was among the early arrivals in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday.
Marks-Evans said it was important to appear to advocate for students and teachers.
"I think they [state lawmakers] need to hear us because we're here today," said Marks-Evans. "I think it's going to make a difference, I'll be positive and I hope for the best.
Many of the shops in downtown Fayetteville Street have opened their doors to teachers. Teachers make bathroom and food stops The Sheraton provides free bottled water and snacks for teachers to stop there.
NCAE also hopes to elect "pro-education candidates" in the coming six months to weaken Republican Control of the General Assembly
Republican legislative leaders point out that they have increased education funding and are planning to help teachers in to give an average increase of 6.2 percent this year, the fifth year in a row.
At a conference Tuesday conference, Sen. leader Phil Berger and House spokesman Tim Moore saddened that, rather than trying to meet the national average, they provided bonuses for high-performance or for teaching jobs in the high-demand topics want to be superior, that all current tax cuts come into force.
Republicans have also criticized the timing of the protest taking place during school hours on the first day of this year's legislature. At least 42 school districts, including the country's six largest – Wake County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Guilford County, Winston-Salem / Forsyth, Cumberland County and Union County – have canceled class for the day.
"The fact that a million children will not be at school tomorrow because a political organization wants people to come here to communicate with us or send a message or whatever the front-center thing is "Berger said at the Tuesday press conference. 19659002] The march comes after teacher strikes and work stoppages earlier this year in Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia led to changes such as wage increases and higher education spending. Like North Carolina, these are labor rights states with weak or no official teacher unions and republican majorities in the parliament building.
Conservative groups seized a letter Monday night from NCAE Organize 2020, saying they were "inspired" by the strong organization and social justice of the Chicago Teachers' Union and have worked to bring similar energy to bring to North Carolina. "Organizing 2020 says the march can be used to build support for public education and NCAE.
" If May 16 will play a role, we need to build our union, "reads the e-mail from "Organize 2020."
The event is causing traffic problems in Raleigh city center as commuters cope with mass influxes of demonstrators 19659028]