Parents Join North Carolina Teachers on Walk-In to Protest Low Pay

In North Carolina, teachers took part in a statewide effort to raise awareness for the challenges they face in the classroom. As part of a statewide walk-in, public school teachers and parents protested against education spending cutbacks and low teacher pay. They hoisted protest signs to send a message to the state's General Assembly that they wanted to see a stronger commitment to public schools.

The protests and rallies were designed to give voice to frustrations about cuts in education funding and concerns over the direction of education in North Carolina, write Tim Funk and Steve Lyttle of The Charlotte Observer.

At Northwest School of the Arts, teachers arrived early Monday to stand for an hour along Beatties Ford Road. They held up signs featuring the image of a half-eaten apple and acknowledged supportive honks from drivers passing by.

Some teachers at the school signaled to their students that they planned to remain silent all day – giving their instructions non-verbally – to call attention to the work they say they aren't paid enough for.

"Raleigh, Pay Me By the Hour. I Dare You," read the sign raised by Bonnie Fraker, chair of the school's theater department, who said she worked 400 unpaid hours – or 10 weeks – last year. "We didn't want to walk out because we're here to educate these kids," Fraker said. "But we are really tired of the treatment we're getting from Raleigh."

To demonstrate outside the state Capitol building in Raleigh, some teachers called in sick or took the day off. State law does not allow strikes or work stoppages by public employees.

Protests are "the only thing we have left," said Anca Stefan, who called in sick to her teaching job at Durham's Lakewood Montessori Middle School. "We have called representatives. We have signed petitions. We have voted for people who said that they support education. And nothing has come of it."

Senate Leader Phil Berger, a chief advocate of the legislature's education changes, said the protests are wrong-headed. Berger said "we welcome a productive dialogue and our schools are not the place for politics and our children should not be the pawns."

In addition to the state teachers group, all 36 public schools in Iredell-Statesville participated in some way with the walk-in, according to system spokeswoman Dawn Creason. More than 600 people from the Iredell-Statesville community, including some elected officials, visited schools Monday.

Teachers said that they are demoralized by a series of legislative actions that froze teacher pay, cut teacher assistants, eliminated extra pay for master's degrees and replaced tenure with a system that provides $500-a-year raises and four-year contracts for only 25% of teachers.

Republicans believe that school reform plans adopted in the past two years increase accountability, improve financial responsibility, and expand the ability of parents to move their children into charter or private schools.

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