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As May 16 teacher rally approaches, North Carolina school closures mount

North Carolina teachers in a 2013 file photo.

North Carolina school closures are mounting in anticipation of an enormous teacher rally in Raleigh next week.

As of this writing, 11 North Carolina school systems have confirmed they will take a day off during the May 16 protest, many of them citing the burdensome cost of bringing on droves of substitutes.

Without closure, local districts would be left scrambling to find stand-ins with more than 10,000 North Carolina teachers expected to gather in Raleigh next week.

Closure will also spare many teachers who would otherwise be forced to forfeit $50 from their paychecks to take a “personal day” for the event, which is being led by the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), the state’s largest advocacy organization for teachers.

Confirmed closures for May 16 include Wake County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Guilford County Schools, Mooresville Graded School District, Durham Public Schools, Nash-Rocky Mount Schools, Orange County Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Asheville City Schools, Iredell-Statesville Schools and Cabarrus County Schools.

Based on the rising number of teachers requesting a day off for the rally, there’s very likely to be more districts closing in the coming days.

The North Carolina rally follows teacher protests in states like Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia, many of them demanding raises and better overall investment in the nation’s public schools.

On Tuesday, NCAE President Mark Jewell called the protests an “indictment” of leadership in the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly. While the NCAE is a nonpartisan group, the organization’s leadership has been particularly critical of GOP leaders in recent years, citing a precipitous decline in school funding since the recession.

“This is a movement, not a moment,” Jewell said.

Teacher pay has also been a focal point of NCAE lobbying. Raises approved by lawmakers in recent years lifted North Carolina’s teacher pay ranking from near the bottom of the nation to an estimated 37th this year, according to a national report, although the state average trails the nation by close to $10,000.

It’s worth noting too that, when adjusted for inflation, teacher pay in North Carolina is down more than 9 percent since 2009, more than twice the national average.

On Monday, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican and one of the legislature’s most powerful policymakers, blasted teachers for their plans, according to the N.C. Insider.

The May 16 rally is timed with the return of state legislators to session in Raleigh.

Look for in-depth coverage of the brewing protests Thursday at Policy Watch.

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