Cape Fear teachers march on Raleigh for second year straight

Updated: May. 1, 2019 at 10:30 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Teachers across the state said they didn’t see enough changes after last year’s rally in Raleigh, so they decided to march again.

"Teachers are going through so much and we give so much and I feel like we’re not fully funded as we should be,” Columbus County teacher Emma Shaw said.

This year, thousands of demonstrators from across the state, including from the Cape Fear, showed up with more goals in mind. They want more money for non-certified staff, more nurses and social workers in schools, an expansion of Medicaid, the reinstatement of retiree health benefits, and to bring back advanced degree compensation. They marched from the North Carolina Association of Educators headquarters to the Legislative Building.

“Educators are key in a strong, safe community and you deserve the support in the many roles that you play,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said to teachers at the rally following the march." You do so much more than teach math, reading and science. You boost your student’s self esteem.”

“In the general public you don’t always know who is supporting public education and who isn’t and sometimes, just even in social situations, people say negative things about education but here you can look and around and know that everyone here is supporting you,” New Hanover County teacher Kristina Mercier said.

North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson told WECT while he respects teachers’ right to rally, he didn’t think a day off of school was a good idea. Teachers said they wanted to make a statement.

“He knows firsthand how hard teachers work and I think that he needs to know that we need to be funded our schools need to be funded like they should be and teachers deserve higher pay for the jobs that we do," Shaw said.

“We love our job. I’ve been teaching over 30 years. I love it, but a lot of times I don’t feel that we get that love from our people that are in these powerful jobs,” she said.

“We are here for the students. This is for our students and our community," Brunswick County Teacher of the Year Claire Herrington said.

Representative Deb Butler (D) who represents Brunswick and New Hanover Counties said teachers deserve the day off to use as a platform to get lawmakers’ attention.

“I think the First Amendment is pretty important in this country, and if you want to rally and advocate for your rights, I support it 100 percent. Look, these folks work for our children all day every day," Butler said. “Can we at least allow them the ability to express themselves in the people’s house? I think so.”

Teachers met with Representatives Frank Iler (R) from Brunswick County and Ted Davis (R) from New Hanover after the rally. Davis and Iler said they’ll consider the teachers’ concerns in the state budget which will come out in a few weeks.

Teachers said the rally gives them a renewed energy heading back into their classrooms.

“After leaving the rally, you come back with a better sense of community. You come back stronger and ready to find your voice," Herrington said.

Brunswick and New Hanover County schools closed after hundreds of teachers in each district requested the day off. Pender, Bladen and Columbus County schools held class Wednesday. The board of education in Pender County allowed each school to send two staff members to the rally.

This year, 39 school districts in NC closed in response to the NCAE march. Teachers say they’ll show up again next year for their students if they have to.

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