House Education Committee chairman: 'We need to raise average teacher pay'

Posted May 3, 2018 11:58 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:15 a.m. EDT

— Every day, more North Carolina teachers are telling their school districts that they will not be in the classroom on May 16. Instead, they’ll be in Raleigh, arguing for better pay and more resources as the General Assembly’s session begins.

The Durham Board of Education decided 6-1 last night to close school on May 16 as more than 1,000 teachers requested the day off to participate in the event at the Capitol

Before the emergency board meeting, people filled the steps in front of the administrative building for a rally.

The North Carolina Association of Educators is taking the lead on the walkout and plans to march from their headquarters to the legislative building.

According to the NCAE, more than 1,000 people had submitted RSVPs by Thursday morning and more responses are coming in every day.

The purpose is to meet face-to-face with lawmakers and demand higher pay for teachers, more resources for students and better school safety.

Rep. Craig Horn, who chairs the House Education Committee, said Thursday that he does not agree with teachers' methods. He does not think a walkout is the best approach because it causes students to miss time in the classroom.

"I never discourage anyone from advocating for their profession, their job, or promoting their message," he said. "I think there's a better way to do it than what I understand is the plan."

He said he is always open to hearing teachers' concerns and is curious to know the specifics of their demands, but he certainly will be pushing for more education spending in the budget.

"We need the very best and brightest to enter the teaching profession and, as a consequence, we need to raise average teacher pay. This legislature, this legislator, is committed to that," he said.

Turquoise Parker is an elementary school teacher in Durham and said she appreciates the board of education's support and feels teachers will be successful in persuading lawmakers to prioritize school spending.

"We control the voting booth. They have to listen to the people who vote for them," she said.

A Durham high school student spoke at Wednesday night’s rally, saying she stands with teachers.

“If kids are the future, then why does it come to the point where teachers have to sacrifice so much to ensure that kids have what they need in order to learn,” student Taylor Ashley said.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools said 110 teachers have requested personal time off on May 16. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board is expected to hear from teachers making the same request Thursday night at a scheduled meeting.

Wake County school officials said that while they don’t have exact numbers, no schools in the district has raised concerns about an abnormal number of absences

Teacher protests have swept the nation in recent weeks with strikes in West Virginia and Arizona as teachers ask for more support from state lawmakers.