Kenely joined a sea of red-shirted teachers at the headquarters of the North Carolina Association of Educators, organizer of Wednesday's March for Students and Rally for Respect, as chants of "This is what democracy looks like", "Fired up" and "Ready to go" were belted out in a chorus amplified over a loudspeaker.
Hosted by the North Carolina Association of Educators, organizers said it was a "day of solidarity for public school educators and advocates", calling for for action from elected leaders, as the North Carolina General Assembly reconvened.
Tineeta Barnes, a fourth-grade EC language facilitator, said it shocked her that so many teachers from across the state feel the same way as she does about the schools' plight.
Carolynn Phillips, a middle school arts teacher from coastal Brunswick County who was named the county's Teacher of the Year for 2018, called Wednesday's protest a cry for respect from teachers whose pay ranks toward the bottom of the teacher pay scales in the 50 US states.
Legions of teachers then gathered outside on the lawn, and state lawmakers who supported their cause held impromptu meetings.
"They have too many issues for one public school teacher to deal with", Jennings said.
Even as state GOP leaders were praising themselves for supporting teachers, they couldn't resist talking out of turn.
North Carolina Teachers March on State Capital in Mass School Walkout
North Carolina teachers gathering for a rally to demand better resources from lawmakers say they're stretched thin.
The rally is part of a national protest movement by teachers in conservative states demanding lawmakers increase pay and funding. The state has given raises but has cut pay for longtime teachers and for teachers who receive master's degrees.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper spoke at a rally across the street, promoting his proposal to pay for higher salaries by blocking tax cuts that Republicans made a decision to give corporations and high-income households next January. She said lawmakers and state government have let teachers down by failing to equip them properly to do their job. She says the goal is "a better environment for public education".
In the hall outside the House and Senate Chambers, police tried to quiet the teachers who could not get inside and who were shouting, "Remember, remember, we vote in November". Republicans overrode his veto. But the state recently redrew legislative districts, meaning some seats that were safely in the hands of Republicans are competitive. "They came today because they believe they deserve the legislature's respect for helping to make that happen".
House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, addressed the demonstrators' concerns. "North Carolina had this reputation as a Southern state that was very progressive, we would go back that if we funded our schools", said Burton. He hopes his participation in the teacher march will get students more resources. The budget proposal that the Democrat unveiled last week would increase salaries by 8 percent this year and take a big first step toward the national average. She said she has a personal stake in the success of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools since three grandchildren will be entering the system over the next three years. Once, while teaching a high school class of refugees who struggled with English, she chose to purchase 35 textbooks for English-language learners.
"It's wonderful", she said.
"They have hard jobs and they deserve our respect and support" that he said goes beyond what the legislature can provide in funding to community and employer resources.
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