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Thousands march through Raleigh seeking money for education

Raleigh, N.C. — Teachers from the Triangle and all across North Carolina will march in downtown Raleigh Wednesday to urge lawmakers to increase state funding for education. This story will be updated from the Capitol throughout the day.

bullet; Images: Teachers rally

12:30 p.m.: Teachers and protesters are clapping rhythmically outside the legislative chamber. Many are chanting, “Remember, remember, we vote in November.” Lawmakers continue the session, but the sound is penetrating the room.

12 p.m.: As the NC General Assembly legislative session begins, 3,000 teachers are allowed to enter the legislative building to lobby for funding. The building’s maximum occupancy is 4,000 people.

11:55 a.m.: The crowd begins to disperse as some teachers are entering the legislative building and others wait for the 3:30 p.m. rally.

11:40 p.m.: Inside the Capitol, it’s hard to tell where the line to get in ends and the crowd of protesters begins. People who have made it through security say it’s currently a 20 to 30 minute wait. Once they do get inside, they’re particularly appreciative of the air conditioning.

Capitol police are counting the number of people entering, but won’t share that number – at least not yet.

11:30 p.m: As rain begins to fall, teacher Karen Braxton from Pender County holds her sign that reads, “I got chemo while pregnant on Friday… at work Monday. Please question my loyalty.” She said it’s insulting that people have accused teachers of not being loyal for marching when she works three jobs so she can continue to teach.

“You can’t say I’m not loyal to my classroom and my students. It’s insulting,” she said. “These schools in this state. We’re so underfunded. We can’t draw in the most excited, motivated people. People are leaving. They don’t want to teach here.”

11:15 a.m.: Teachers begin lining up outside the legislative building. Security officers check a few people at a time.

“We’re going to change the trajectory of public education in North Carolina,” NCAE President Mark Jewel told WRAL. “This is a historic day for the state of North Carolina, and I’m proud to lead the way.”

11:05 a.m.: Raleigh police close Jones Street because of large crowd. NCAE estimates more than 20,000 people are walking through downtown Raleigh. Police did not immediately confirm the estimate.

11:00 a.m.: The wave of red continues to move through downtown Raleigh. Thousands reach the legislative building and spread out on the surrounding blocks.

“We are seeing teachers leaving the profession because they can’t keep working two jobs to support their families,” a Wake County teacher said. “People need to know the the people they are electing and their views on education a funding.”

“We have to fund our schools. We have to pay our teachers,” a Durham parent said. “It’s one of the most important things we can do as a culture and for our future.”

10:45 a.m.: “Our students don’t have the resources they need. We’ve lost teachers, we’ve lost teacher’s assistants and we’ve lost funding for supplies,” a teacher from Guilford County Schools said. “This isn’t just about our salaries. This is about our students.”

Among the marchers’ chants: “This is what democracy looks like” and “Remember we vote in November.”

10:20 a.m.: Reporters from national media outlets, including MSNBC, NBC, CNBC, speak with North Carolina teachers and education advocates about their grievances with the state’s education funding.

10:10 a.m.: House Speaker Tim Moore’s staff has hung several posters around their offices, pointing out that the state’s portion of average teacher pay has risen by $8,600 since 2013.

One teacher who was in the Capitol early and saw the sign said, “He’s missing the point.”

10 a.m.: With 42 school districts closed, thousands of teachers, students and parents dressed in red begin marching from the NCAE headquarters.

8:35 a.m.: David Gould and Dahlresma Marks-Evans were the first teachers to arrive at the NC General Assembly building this morning.

Gould, an art teacher from Onslow County, got up at 2:30 a.m. to get here early. Marks-Evans was already here when he arrived at 6:30.

“The early bird catches the worm,” Marks-Evans smiled.

An 8th-grade exceptional children’s teacher from Durham, Marks-Evans came early to make sure she would be able to get into the legislature to talk to lawmakers and watch the session.

“I just want them to respect education more,” she said.

Gould said he was motivated by the Marine families of the children he teaches. He’s hoping to convince lawmakers to “reprioritize” children and education.

“Jesus said ‘Love the little children,’” Gould said. “I think a lot of these people are very faith-based. I’d like to see that.”

Both said the teacher pay raises over the past four years were welcome but insufficient, citing North Carolina’s persistently low ranking for teacher pay and per-pupil spending nationwide.

“I’m going to talk for all educators – we are very grateful for the raises that we have had, but it’s not enough,” Marks-Evans said. “Inflation’s going up, cost of living’s going up, gas is going up. What you’ve given us is not enough because we’re still having to supply the classroom if it’s lacking in any way.”

“We have been getting some pay raises, but it’s kind of little crumbs,” Gould agreed. “As an art teacher, I don’t think in terms of 5 or 10 years, but 500 or 5000. We need to do a better job long-term. What we have now is not sustainable.”

7:45 a.m.: Crowds of teachers are gathering at the NCAE. At 10 a.m., they will march to the legislative building, where other teachers and lawmakers are waiting for them. A discussion will be held at noon followed by a rally at 3 p.m.

7:30 a.m.: “Education is the number one priority of North Carolina and has been for some time — it’s over 57 percent of the budget,” said Rep. Craig Horn, who is waiting to meet with teachers at the legislative building. “It’s the largest thing we do — it affects more people, we spend more money on it…so I expect and am looking forward to learning from [the teachers]. I hope to learn what are their challenges and show them what challenges we face from this side of the aisle.”

“I think it’s terrible that some teachers have to work two or three jobs,” said Rep. Horn. “I’m doing the best I can to continue to raise salaries.”

7:00 a.m.: The Morning Times and other restaurants in downtown Raleigh are preparing for the rally too, readying boxed lunches for teachers in Raleigh.

6:30 a.m.: “I go to work every day to make a difference, but today it’s a different kind of difference we’re trying to make,” said Jasmine Lauer, a Wake County teacher waiting for the march to begin at the NCAE.

“We are here today to remind the General Assembly that public education is the great equalizer for North Carolina. “I think it’s important that they put faces with those public school dollars because it’s really easy for them to talk about taxes and buildings and structures, but what we’re really talking about is children.”

6 a.m.: Teachers across North Carolina are waking up and getting ready for this morning’s rally in Raleigh. Many teachers are “carpooling” with other teachers to take charter buses to the North Carolina Association of Educators building in downtown Raleigh to begin the march for the legislative building.

Route

Teachers will march from the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) building located at 700 S. Salisbury Street to the legislative building on W. Jones Street at 10 a.m. and have planned a speech for noon.

The legislative building can hold 4,000 people at its capacity, and of those, about 1,000 will be teachers hoping to meet their lawmakers to talk higher pay and more resources for students.

Hundr of teachers will skip the march and line up at the legislative building at 6 a.m. to make sure they get in line to speak to their lawmakers.

Goals

According to the NCAE, five main changes teachers are rallying for include:

Raise per-pupil spending
Professional compensation plan
Improve school safety — more nurses and counselors
Fix schools in need of repair
End corporate tax cuts

State lawmakers have increased teachers‘ salaries for the past four years, and the average teacher salary in North Carolina is $51,214; however, most teachers say that isn’t the case for them, and teachers who make higher salaries are bringing up the overall average. North Carolina currently ranks 37 in the nation for teacher pay.

Teachers say they are rallying for education funding overall, not just their own paychecks, but some elected officials say they think there is another agenda.

“There is no question that the NCAE is very closely aligned with the Democratic party in North Carolina,” said GOP Senate leader Phil Berger. “Much of what we’re hearing is politically motivated.” Berger and other elected officials said they will be glad to meet with educators from their districts attending the rally.

In Durham, educators are preparing for the rally by offering bus rides downtown. A sign-up sheet allowed teachers to reserve their spots on buses leaving from Hillside and Riverside high schools at 8:15 a.m. Monday to begin the journey to Raleigh.

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