Thursday, May 17, 2018

North Carolina teacher protest exposes urban-rural divide

N.C. teachers march on Raleigh. (AP photo by Gerry Broome)
Thousands of North Carolina teachers marched on the state Capitol in Raleigh yesterday in support of increased school funding.

About two-thirds of the state's children were out of school yesterday because there weren't enough substitutes to cover for teachers who requested the day off. "But the districts that canceled class, affecting nearly 1 million students, are concentrated in the state’s urban and suburban counties. Most of the state’s 100 counties are rural, and their school districts stayed open," Valerie Bauerlein reports for The Wall Street Journal. "That divergence isn’t a coincidence, and reflects the growing divide in the state between the liberal cities that drive the state’s economy and the conservative small towns and rural areas that control state politics."

The protest differed from those in other states in that teachers only expected to march for one day, and many said they didn't expect lawmakers to raise teacher pay immediately, Bauerlein reports.

One protesting teacher, Jenna Moore, said she has to work a second job as a real-estate agent to make ends meet, and that schools are not given enough funding for classroom supplies. Moore is a fifth-grade teacher in the city of High Point, pop. 111,223.

The state Republican Party said the protest unnecessarily inconveniences parents and students, and noted that the legislature has increased teacher pay every year for the past four years, with another increase scheduled for next year. North Carolina ranks 37th in teacher pay, with an estimated annual average of $50,861, compared to the national average of $60,483, according to a report from the National Education Association. While North Carolina law bars public employees from joining unions, the organization that sponsored the march, the North Carolina Association of Educators, is an NEA affiliate.

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