Voices from the Rally for Respect

The North Carolina Association of Educators hosted a March for Students and Rally for Respect on May 16 in support of increased teacher pay and public school funding. Across the state, 42 school districts closed in response to the protest, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg with 147,400 students and Wake County with 160,100 students. We talked to educators at the Rally about why they were there and why it was important to them. 

Attendees leaving the Rally for Respect photograph a banner on the North Carolina State Capitol.

Attendees leaving the Rally for Respect photograph a banner on the North Carolina State Capitol.

Holly and friends attended the Rally for Respect on May 16. 

Holly and friends attended the Rally for Respect on May 16. 

"I’m here for reinstatement of master’s pay, longevity and school funding."
–Holly Price, Johnston County Schools
Jolandra, Djnna, Kim and Xiomara attended the Rally for Respect together on May 16. 

Jolandra, Djnna, Kim and Xiomara attended the Rally for Respect together on May 16. 

"We do a lot of work as teachers that goes unrecognized. We do more than just teach. We counsel. We’re parents to these children. We come out of pockets to provide resources that otherwise these students would not have an opportunity to see and have an opportunity to just have that experience. It’s more than just pay. It’s not why we’re out here. We’re out here, because it’s what’s right. There’s teachers that have been working 20 or 30 years and have never seen a day like this before, so I’m here because of history too. This is actually history in the making, and I’m here for change."
–Jolandra
"I’m a special ed teacher. I’m here to not only to support the teachers, but I’m here for my students. I’m here because I want to give them better and giving them better costs money, and so for the resources for the EC [Exceptional Children] services, I’m here to be able to expand that in the years to come."
–Djnna
"Teachers are underpaid, but I’m here also to support all of us who make it happen every single day. We take time out of our own schedules. We stay up half the night. We do whatever it takes to make it happen for the children for them to succeed in life."
–Kim
"Teachers are overworked and underpaid, and we put a lot into our kids and what we do. We love what we do, and we’re not appreciated and our pay reflects that."
–Xiomara Smith 
Liz is a 5th grade teacher in Brunswick County.

Liz is a 5th grade teacher in Brunswick County.

"I see a lot of students come through my class with mental health illnesses that are not being met so their academic needs are not being met."
–Liz
A group of North Carolina educators at the Rally for Respect in support of increased public school funding.

A group of North Carolina educators at the Rally for Respect in support of increased public school funding.

A large crowd assembled at Bicentennial Plaza in Raleigh for the Rally for Respect on May 16.

A large crowd assembled at Bicentennial Plaza in Raleigh for the Rally for Respect on May 16.

"Although I teach in a private parochial school, the issues affecting North Carolina public school teachers and students affect me. As a teacher, my private school salary is based on the public school salary scale. As a parent, my children in public school deserve excellent instruction from well-paid teachers working with decent budgets. As a citizen, I want the K-12 public education system in my state to be renowned. Why is our state, known for its incredible colleges and universities, also known for it's poor consideration of public schools? Low teacher pay and low per-student spending combined with tax cuts for the wealthy—it's an embarrassment that needs to be rectified."
–Karen Brown, New Hanover County
Joshayla and Aftan at the Rally for Respect in Raleigh on May 16.

Joshayla and Aftan at the Rally for Respect in Raleigh on May 16.

"Without teachers no other profession would be possible. Everyone started off with a teacher, so they deserve equal pay as a doctor, a scientist, it started with them."
–Joshayla
"This is extremely important, because no. 1 we don’t have enough funding for kids for the basic necessities — books, supplies, clean classrooms, clean schools. No. 2 we put our blood, sweat and tears into educating these kids and we just don’t make enough on the back end for all that we put into what we do."
–Aftan, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Jim and Tim attended the Rally together. 

Jim and Tim attended the Rally together. 

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"They just keep taking away from our kids. I don’t want teachers to be like — raise, raise, raise — because it’s not why we’re here. Our kids are way underfunded. They’re just not getting what they deserve. We’re funding inmates not students, so if we don’t fund student, we get more inmates whereas if we fund students, than less inmates. We’re looking at it from a backwards position, so I guess we’re just getting tired of being lied to. A raise would be nice, but honestly the kids are what deserve it more than anybody, so that’s why we’re here fighting for our students."
–Jim
"We’ve been here for 20 years. I’ve been in education for 20 years. We came from a different state and really the last 10 years, we’ve just watched the funding and the support by the General Assembly just erode for public education in all forms, including teacher pay, but definitely not limited to. A lot of the people now, especially young families and kids, they don’t even remember what a pre-2008, pre-recession schools we’re like, and what Jim described is not the way schools always were."
–Tim
Mary brought her son and Kim brought her daughter to the Rally for Respect.

Mary brought her son and Kim brought her daughter to the Rally for Respect.

"I’m here for my kids. I’m a teacher too, but I’m here for my own personal kids’ future. That’s where they are. I want there to be good teachers there, and good supplies. I want their future to be bright. People aren’t going into teaching any longer and we have to do something now. I have a [rising] fifth grader and a [rising] kindergartener and they’ve got a long way in education. I want their schools to be great experiences."
–Mary
"I’m an art teacher, so I’m here to support the arts. Every time the funding goes, the art programs go, and they’re detrimental in our public education for kids. They’re so much more than a planning period for other teachers, they’re well-rounded children built through the arts programs."
–Kim
"I’m here, because I want to celebrate all the teachers, and my teacher Ms. Mohammad because she does a lot for me."
–Kim's daughter 
Attendees stood on the balcony of the North Carolina State Legislature building, overlooking the Rally.

Attendees stood on the balcony of the North Carolina State Legislature building, overlooking the Rally.

Sarah and friends at the Rally for Respect.

Sarah and friends at the Rally for Respect.

"I’m a big proponent of public education. I happen to be a product of it myself, and in a different state where the funding per student is a lot higher than it is and I think that the expectations of teachers are rising and we need to do so many things with technology. Students need to be worldly citizens and unfortunately we don’t have the funding to make all of those things true. We want to be able to make these kids successful in this ever-growing and changing world, but unfortunately without the resources we can’t do that, and so if they’re not willing or able to help us have those resources, they can’t expect us live up to those changes."
–Sarah
Issue NC