"What I'd say to the ones that really think they're giving us enough, is it's not about us".
The protest was the latest in a wave of actions and strikes this year by teachers in states including West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado who feel lawmakers have failed to adequately pay teachers and provide for schools.
It would raise teacher salaries by putting a stop to planned tax cuts for corporations and high income households. Today teachers in North Carolina took to the streets demanding change.
Carolynn Phillips, a middle school arts teacher from coastal Brunswick County who was named the county's Teacher of the Year for 2018, called Wednesday's protest a cry for respect from teachers whose pay ranks toward the bottom of the teacher pay scales in the 50 USA states. Not only did Republicans redraw the state's congressional map (later declared unconstitutional) and pass the infamous bathroom bill (later partially repealed), but they also slashed funding for school supplies and textbooks, scrapped a cap on classroom size, and eliminated pay raises for veteran teachers and those with advanced degrees. Organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), in conjunction with the Community Alliance for Public Education (CAPE), teachers began marching at the NCAE headquarters and ended at the NC Legislative Building.
Ahead of Wednesday's event, Republican lawmakers said they have provided teachers with salary increases over each of the past four years and wrote a pay increase for 2018-2019 into the biennial budget passed last year.
More than three dozen school districts that together educate more than two-thirds of the state's 1.5 million public school students have chose to close classrooms to allow for the show of strength by the teachers and their advocacy group.
Conrad expressed disappointment that she had heard from just three teacher constituents by email about wanting to meet with her Wednesday, as well as few walk-in visitors, even though the main teacher rally was occurring just yards outside her office. "I think we need to listen to them".
But not all of them could make it.
However, Conrad stressed that Republican legislators are not going to "shut down charter schools and do away with the opportunity scholarships" that pay a portion of the tuition for low-income students to attend a charter, religious or private school.
Teachers also are known for apples, and the Triangle might soon be as well. "We love our public schools and we deserve better!"
But with the Great Recession in the past and the state's financial stability restored, teachers say it's time to catch up on deferred school spending. "We know you are critical for the success of our schools, but we have to be willing to prioritize it and pay for it", he said.
"We have the power to mold the future", he said.
The North Carolina Association of Educators is calling for per-student spending and teacher pay to be raised to at least the national average. Their pay increased by 4.2 percent over the previous year - the second-biggest increase in the country - and was estimated to rise an average 1.8 percent this year, the NEA said.
Jewell said teachers will all be back to work tomorrow and they'll also be at the polls in November.
"There is usually not this much excitement during the short session, but its good to see this many folks turning out to support education which is critical to our state and critical to our workforce development", said Sec.