'We vote!' North Carolina teachers walk out for higher pay

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Teacher walkouts this year have already occurred in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado.

Educators across the state walked out of schools and gathered for a rally in Raleigh in hopes that lawmakers will hear their calls for higher pay and funding for classroom resources they say have been diminished by a decade of cuts while major corporations have gotten tax breaks.

North Carolina slashed its corporate income tax rate in 2013, reducing it from 6.9 percent to its current 3.0 percent.

About 15,000 teachers are marching through Raleigh today, as the Republican-dominated state legislature begins its annual session.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, North Carolina joins seven other states that have recently enacted income tax cuts, costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue every year.

Many school districts, including Cabarrus County Schools and Kannapolis City Schools, made the day an optional teacher workday because of the amount of teachers who requested off for the day. North Carolina also ranked 39th in terms of per-student spending, where students are allocated $2,313 less than the national average, which was $11,787 a year ago. Boraks also said he saw signs reading, "Teacher pay: Grade F", and "I just want to make a living".

During Wednesday's rally, Cooper said North Carolina's teacher pay, which ranks 37th in the country, is unacceptable. Many wore a red shirt, some featuring the word "respect" inside an outline of the state.

Miss North Carolina Victoria Huggins sang the National Anthem to open the session.

To work around vacation day rules, the newspaper reports, "organizers of Wednesday's march encouraged teachers to use a provision in state law that allows them to take personal leave with at least five days" advance notice-as long as a substitute is available and the teacher pays a $50 "required substitute deduction.'" Dozens of districts canceled classes, meaning those educators won't be forced to pay the sub fee.

Dwayne Simmons, a teacher at Ashley Park, went to Charlotte's local rally for teachers, advocating for an increase and teacher salaries and funding for education. "I just wish I could live off of what I get for doing it".

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"We are now about $2,400 below the national average in how we fund our public school children", Jewell said at a news conference in Raleigh earlier this week.

But not all of them could make it.

"We are on track to spend over $2 billion more on K-12 in 2018-19 than was spent in 2010-2011", he said in a Twitter post.

"According to the NEA, North Carolina Ranked #2 in the USA for fastest rising teacher pay in 2017", Republican Senator Phil Berger, president pro tempore, said on Twitter during the march.

"I know several teachers [and] former teachers running for office to try and keep up the fight", he said.

"We have no intention of raising taxes", Berger said ahead of the march.

He said one of his own concerns is the school building, which he said was built in 1954 and needs many repairs. 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.

"People always say "We support teachers" but they have to show it", Pitts said. They've had some salary increases in recent years, but when adjusted for inflation, they've lost 9.4% in pay since 2009.

Amy Buchen, a first-grade educator at Brassfield Elementary School in Raleigh, says she was amazed by the enormous community that formed in the wake of this morning's protests.