Thousands of North Carolina teachers came together Wednesday in Raleigh to demand that state lawmakers do more to raise teacher pay and education spending.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the "March for Students and Rally for Respect," organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), was the largest act of organized teacher political action in state history.
The rally forced many school systems to close for the day and meant that more than 1 million public school students had the day off.
The teachers, almost all wearing red, chanted slogans such as "This is what democracy looks like," "I believe that we will win" and "Hey hey, ho ho, the attack on schools has got to go."
They marched to the state legislature and waited in long lines to enter the building and fill the gallery. In the afternoon, teachers met with individual lawmakers.
The NCAE is demanding that state legislators raise both teacher pay and per-pupil spending to the national average in the next four years and freeze corporate tax cuts until that happens. Their teachers' platform also calls for a statewide $1.9 billion school construction bond referendum placed on the ballot.
Republicans have criticized the timing of the protest. At least 42 school districts, including the state's six largest — Wake County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Guilford County, Winston-Salem/Forsyth, Cumberland County and Union County — canceled classes for the day.
"It’s just unfortunate that what is happening is inconveniencing so many students — about a million students are missing a day of school," Senate leader Phil Berger said. "They could have organized this on a day after school was out. We’re going to be here for five or six weeks at least, and it could have been done at another time."
The march comes after teacher strikes and walkouts earlier this year in Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia led to changes such as pay raises and higher education spending.