Originally published by Eric Ginsburg at Teen Vogue
After witnessing successful teacher walkouts and strikes across the nation this year, educators in North Carolina are poised for their moment in the spotlight. On May 16, about 15,000 teachers are taking a personal day to lobby their state legislature, effectively shutting down schools across North Carolina. Demanding better educational funding — including spending per student, teacher pay, and fixing infrastructure — teachers plan to take the day off en masse to participate in a march and rally outside the North Carolina General Assembly on the first day of the legislature’s 2018 session.
“Our legislators have shown that they don’t listen,” Todd Warren, a K-5 Spanish teacher currently serving as the president of the Guilford County Association of Educators told Teen Vogue. “We have voted, we have marched, we have rallied… We’ve done these things over and over and over again. Despite having the polling data that [shows] across partisan lines, people support public education, we’re still seeing these really low funding levels.” Warren, who’s been a teacher for 14 years, said that so many teachers have requested a personal day to participate in the May 16 protest that 40 of the state’s school districts have opted to close. An earlier news report estimated that nearly 100,000 students — or 64% of public school students in the state — would be out of school for the day, but as more districts opted to close, those figures have grown. (North Carolina is the second-least unionized state](https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.t05.htm) in the country and teachers technically aren’t allowed to strike, but by requesting personal days off, teachers are circumventing the system to drive their point home to their representatives.
Following on the heels of a successful 9-day strike by West Virginia teachers, education protests in Oklahoma and Kentucky, and teacher walkouts in Arizona and Colorado, thousands of North Carolina teachers are saying they’re fed up as well. While teacher pay is rising in the state, stats published last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that North Carolina is [one of the three worst states for teacher pay] (https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/a-look-at-teacher-pay-across-the-united-states-in-2017.htm), not far ahead of Oklahoma. Better pay is one of the teachers’ demands, but it’s hardly their only focal point.