RALEIGH, N.C. – Thousands of North Carolina classrooms will be empty Wednesday as teachers march on the State Capitol in Raleigh for better pay and more funding for schools.
Dozens of school districts in the area, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, canceled class after administrators were inundated with substitute requests. Organizers of the march say 15,000 teachers are expected on hand Wednesday, with 1 million students statewide missing class as a result.
Teachers are already scheduled to get a six-percent increase in pay next year, but Governor Roy Cooper is calling on state legislators to up that raise to eight percent. Cooper made his plea while announcing the state’s 2018-19 budget last week.
“A quality teacher in every classroom and a quality principal in every school make for great public schools,” Cooper said. “They shouldn’t have to take to the streets to get the respect they deserve.”
North Carolina ranks 37th for teacher pay and the average salary for teachers in the state is about $10,000 below the national average.
One CMS teacher told NBC Charlotte that Wednesday's rally is about more than just pay.
"This is year 17 (for me) and it's just getting worse and worse every year," she said. "It's not about us today, it's about the students. Our students deserve better, so we deserve better and we want the best for them."
Dozens of districts, including CMS, Cabarrus County, Rowan-Salisbury, Gaston County and Union County Schools will be closed, but not everyone supports the teachers’ decision to protest on a school day.
Representative Mark Brody of Union and Anson counties took to Facebook to voice his displeasure with the march, saying in part, “Teaching our children that it is OK to not show up for work does not set a good example.”
North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson said on Twitter that he does not plan to attend a protest on a school day.
For teachers who were unable to make the trip to Raleigh, there is a march taking place at First Ward Park in uptown Charlotte at 11 a.m.