North Carolina’s Republican leadership appears to be swimming upstream, and largely alone, in opposition to the May 1 teacher march and rally.
A new poll by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling shows that more than 70 percent of the state’s voters – including more than half of Republicans — support teachers taking the day off to share concerns with lawmakers.
“When it comes to support for our legislative agenda, the public is with us,” said N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) President Mark Jewell. “Wide margins of Republicans and Democrats support our call for increased funding for public education, and we intend to deliver that message to our representatives on May 1.”
Click here to see the entire survey.
Republican leaders have been openly critical of the march.
Sen. Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham), the Senate president pro tempore, has called the May 1 march a partisan ploy by the NCAE to help elect Democrats.
“This strike is not about education,” Berger wrote on his Facebook page last week. “It is a strike organized by partisan activists with the express intent of eliminating Republicans from the North Carolina General Assembly, and it is at the expense of children who should be in the classroom learning.”
State Superintendent Mark Johnson has also been critical. He asked teachers to consider a day in June when school is not in session.
Forty-four percent of voters polled said they are Democrats while 35 percent said they are Republicans. Another 21 percent identified as other. The poll was conducted April 10-12.
Eighty-five percent of voters who identified themselves as Democrats strongly support or somewhat support the May 1 march in Raleigh. And 55 percent of those who said they are Republicans strongly support or somewhat support the march.
Meanwhile, 71 percent of voters who identified as other strongly support or somewhat support the teacher’s march.
When voters were asked if they approve or disapprove of the job the Republican-led General Assembly is doing when it comes to education, only 33 percent of voters approved. Forty-nine percent disapproved and 18 percent were not sure.
Gov. Roy Cooper fared better when asked about his job performance around education. Fifty-one percent of voters said they approve of the job Cooper is doing compared to 35 percent who did not. Fourteen percent were not sure.
The poll’s other findings include:
- Sixty-nine percent (including 62 percent of Republicans) believe North Carolina teacher salaries are too low.
- Seventy-seven percent (including 65 percent of Republicans) support providing enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standards.
- Seventy-one percent (including 56 percent of Republicans) support raising the minimum wage for school support employees like bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants.
- Sixty-three percent (including 45 percent of Republicans) support raising state income taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent in order to increase public education funding.
Last year, more than 19,000 teachers and supporters turned out for a march and rally for better teacher pay an increased K-12 funding.
Jewell expects more teachers and supporters will show up next month to rally around these five items:
- Additional funding to adequately staff schools with psychologists, social worker, nurses and librarians.
- Restoration of extra pay for advanced degrees.
- Increasing the minimum wage for all school personnel to $15 an hour and a 5 percent cost of living raise for school employees and retirees.
- Expansion of Medicaid to improve the health of students and their families.
- Restoration of retiree health benefits for teachers hired after 2021.