Raleigh, N.C. — After marching more than 20 miles over two days to press lawmakers for more education funding in the state budget, several teachers were arrested Wednesday evening while sitting down in the middle of Morgan Street outside the State Capitol.
Raleigh police said that 14 people were arrested after they declined to leave the area. They were each taken to the Wake County Detention Center and charged with impeding the flow of traffic and resisting, delaying or obstructing law enforcement officers.
A few dozen marchers started in Durham on Tuesday to draw attention to the needs of North Carolina's public schools. The demonstration was sparked by the House's recent passage of a bill that would allow private charter school companies to take over management of five low-performing schools in an "achievement school district."
"This is about teachers not being able to control the conditions in their classrooms to have learning occur," said Todd Warren, a Guliford County teacher.
The teachers said the issues their students face are complex and a charter school takeover is not the answer.
"If the governor expands or fully funds public education and expands Medicaid, our students get what they need, their parents get what they need and it won't be such a struggle," said Carrol Olinger, a Cumberland County teacher.
"We live in a state where 500,000 people could have access to free health care from the federal government, and they're being denied it. We live in a state where 25 percent of our kids live in poverty. We live in a state where 16-year-olds are tried as adults," said Bryan Proffitt, a Durham teacher.
After arriving in Raleigh, the marchers rallied outside the Legislative Building along with several dozen members of the North Carolina Association of Educators before heading over to the Capitol in an effort to meet with Gov. Pat McCrory, who was out of the office at another appointment.
Graham Wilson, a spokesman for McCrory, said the governor's education adviser and deputy chief of staff were available to meet with the group. The protesters initially declined, he said, demanding to speak with McCrory, but they later changed their minds. By the time the staffers returned to the Capitol to meet with them, however, the protest had moved to Morgan Street, Wilson said.
Achievement school district supporters say the idea could be an effective way to turn around failing schools and provide more educational opportunities for students.
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, also said the protesters are ignoring the progress McCrory has made in funding education in recent years.
"It's just surprising. Under the McCrory years, the governor raised teacher pay more than any other state," Woodhouse said. "We are also getting ready to raise teacher pay again. This governor has done great things for teachers, as has the legislature and they are going to continue to do that this year."
The press secretary for the governor sent a response outlining how the Governor is indeed pushing for increase in teacher pay and noting that 57 percent of the state budget general fund goes to education.
Wilson noted that McCrory's budget proposal called for raising the average teacher salary in the state to $50,000, which would rank 34th nationally and third in the Southeast. North Carolina currently ranks 41st nationwide in average teacher salary.