Thousands of teachers in the US state of North Carolina have rallied to demand higher pay, greater spending on education and better working conditions, as teachers’ strikes continue to spread across the US.
The teachers marched on the state Capitol on Wednesday, chanting, “Remember, remember, we vote in November” as the session at the state legislature got underway.
At least 38 school districts in North Carolina, representing more than half of the state’s 1.5 million public school students, were closed due to the protests.
The salary of teachers in the state ranks among the lowest in the country. The North Carolina Association of Educators is calling for per-student spending and teacher pay to be raised to at least the national average.
North Carolina the sixth state in which teachers’ have publicly protested to bring attention to the state of education in the United States.
Teacher walkouts this year have already occurred in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado. All have said that lawmakers have failed to adequately pay teachers and fund schools.
It has been called the “Teachers’ Spring” in the United States, with educators staging an unprecedented wave of protests demanding increases in pay and school budgets.
“It’s like the Arab spring, but it’s a teacher spring,” Toni Henson, a geography teacher, told the Guardian.
Encouraged by progressive resistance to US President Donald Trump and the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, the protests by the nation’s teachers mark the first statewide walkouts since the 1990s.
The strikes started in West Virginia in February and spread to several other states. The West Virginia strike, which shut schools for almost two weeks, ended with a five percent pay raise.
According to the National Education Association, a group representing public school teachers in the United States, the average teacher salary in the country decreased by four percent from 2008‒09 to 2017‒18, after inflation adjustment.