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Teachers Rally For 2nd Year At State Capitol Wednesday

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio
Shirts that teachers will wear Wednesday in Raleigh

Teachers from all across North Carolina will converge on Raleigh Wednesday for the second ‘Red For Ed’ rally in support public schools.  The president of the Asheville City Association of Educators says the success of the inaugural rally ensured there would be a second one.  

Angie Cathcart is a teacher at Asheville Middle School.  She outlined what she feels was successful about last year's rally.  "We’ve seen the makeup of the General Assembly shift.  There’s no longer a supermajority," Cathcart says, referencing that Democrats won enough seats in last fall's election to break the Republican-majority's ability to override vetoes from Democratic governor Roy Cooper through party line votes.  "There is a majority, but our governor who is a pro-education governor, can now veto.  So some of these things like eliminating master pay or advanced degree pay was a huge hit.”

One of the five top priorities for teachers at this year’s rally is restoring pay hikes for teacher’s who finish master’s degrees.   Others include ensuring all school personnel make a $15 minimum wage, as well as general pay raises for all school staff and more librarians, nurses, psychologists, and other school health professionals to meet national standards.  Teachers also want the state to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.  Governor Cooper has sought to do that since taking office in 2017, but has so far been stymied by Republicans, though the governor does believe there is growing bipartisan support to expand Medicaid during this year's session.

Wednesday's teachers rally does mean many systems will not have classes, like Asheville City schools where Cathcart teaches.  That has drawn the ire of state schools superintendent Mark Johnson as well as Republican leaders in the General Assembly. But Cathcart says being in the face of lawmakers produces results.  “When we do it in this manner, and I know it’s inconvenient and I know some people disagree with it, but I do feel like we make gains,” she says.

The statewide Association of Educators says teacher pay has risen in North Carolina in recent years, but still ranks in the bottom half nationally. 

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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