RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — The streets of Raleigh were full of red Wednesday for a rally that drew thousands of educators from around the state.
While state officials say North Carolina ranks one of the top states in the southeast region for teacher pay, some say they should not have to have a second job just to make it by.
“It takes the whole village to raise a child,” Whiteville City schools Teacher Marietta Lee said.
Thousands of teachers came from different counties and different schools, but they all had one main goal.
Republican lawmakers say teacher pay has continuously gone up over the last six years, but many teachers say they are fighting just to make ends meet, and they say they are not alone.
“We’re concerned for our pay,” Bladen County teacher Tahitian McKenzie said. “Not just teachers. For all school personnel: Custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers. We’re all in this together.”
Riley Higgins, who teaches in Brunswick County, said the rally is about far more than the teachers.
“Mostly it’s actually for student funding, so that we can get the appropriate amount of resources they need in order to be successful in the classroom,” Higgins said.
Teachers rallied on five main issues: raising minimum wage for all school personnel, providing more psychologists, counselors and health professionals, expanding Medicaid coverage, reinstating retiree health benefits and reinstating increased pay for teachers with advanced degrees.
Representative Deb Butler, a Wilmington Democrat, says North Carolina used to be ranked highly in public education.
“Republican leadership will tell you that they’ve given them raise after raise,” Butler said. “That’s insulting to these teachers. They know what their paycheck looks like, they don’t need to be told.”
Brunswick County Republican Frank Iler says he expects more than half of next year’s state budget to be dedicated to education.
“The focus this time is on veteran teachers,” Iler said. “We focused on beginning teachers, the middle of the range, now veteran teachers. also improving pay for other employees.”
Teachers say their fight does not end here. They say they’ll keep fighting and pushing until each child receives the education they deserve.
On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled a budget plan that would give teachers an average raise of 4.8% with an average 1% increase for support staff.
It would also restore extra pay for teachers with advanced degrees.