By Grace Donnelly
May 16, 2018

North Carolina teachers join the thousands of educators across the U.S. who have gone on strike this year, marching on Raleigh to demand higher wages and better funding for their classrooms Wednesday.

Teachers from 20 school districts across the state plan to strike, a demonstration that will affect around 700,000 North Carolina students. But teachers say it’s time the state increases per-pupil funding to the national average and raises teacher pay.

“What they’ve been doing to our public schools is not right,” North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell told ABC11 WTVD.

North Carolina’s teacher salaries rank 35th nationwide, but teachers there have seen the value of their wages fail to keep up with cost of living increases over the past two decades.

Last year the North Carolina state assembly approved $2.5 million in cuts to education funding, including layoffs and the elimination of vacant positions in low-income and low-performing school districts.

Some state Republican lawmakers call the planned strike illegal, since North Carolina has Right to Work laws. Mike Brody called the protesting educators “teachers union thugs” in a lengthy Facebook post criticizing the choice to strike.

North Carolina is latest in a string of states where teachers have gone on strike to push for higher pay and better conditions.

Teachers in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have all led demonstrations since the beginning of 2018.

Teachers in Arizona won a 20% raise. West Virginia educators got a 5% pay increase. In Oklahoma, the teachers union secured raises and increases to school funding and say they’ll focus on supporting pro-education candidates in upcoming elections. Meanwhile the Kentucky strike led to vetoes of the governor’s cuts to school spending in the budget and tax reform bills. In Colorado, a strike by teachers in the Pueblo City School District resulted in a 2% pay raise for educators on Monday.

“I think a lot of us started to see, ‘well shoot, if West Virginia can do it, North Carolina can do it,’ ” middle school Spanish teacher Sally Merryman told NPR. “If Oklahoma can do it, North Carolina can do it. If Arizona can do it, so can North Carolina.”

Mississippi could be the next state to see teachers go on strike, according to analysis by the Brookings Institution.

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