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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

CMS Teachers Stage 'Walk-In' Protests Over State Pay Raise Impasse

Teachers at Oaklawn Language Academy near uptown Charlotte protest before school Wednesday morning
Michael Falero
Teachers at Oaklawn Language Academy near uptown Charlotte protest before school Wednesday morning

Teachers in many schools across North Carolina staged protests Wednesday morning outside their schools in response to deadlocked negotiations between state lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper over educator pay raises.

In sub-freezing temperatures, about 30 teachers outside Oaklawn Language Academy in north Charlotte held up homemade signs and chanted slogans at buses and passing cars.

Protests like these are called “walk-ins.” Teachers protest before school starts and then go in to work. Erin DeMund organized Oaklawn's walk-in.

"We’re doing this today because we want to send a clear message to our state legislators that we find their lack of action on the budget to be unacceptable," DeMund said.

The walk-ins are in response to a budget impasse over teacher raises. Republican state legislators recently passed a bill that would have increased teacher pay by an average of 3.9% over two years. Gov. Cooper vetoed that bill last week, calling the raises “paltry.” His budget called for a 9% average raise for teachers.

The governor has the support of the the North Carolina Association of Educators. The NCAE Organize 2020 Caucus organized Wednesday's walk in protests in Charlotte, in conjunction with members of CMAE (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators). NCAE also wants lawmakers to include funding for more school support staff, a $15 minimum wage for all school employees, and Medicaid expansion.

NCAE President Mark Jewell said in a statement after Wednesday's teacher walk-ins that his organization "proudly supports our locals who are lifting up their voices to push back against the disrespect being shown to all educators -- be they teachers, administrators, ESP’s, or retirees -- as we continue to wait for the Republican leadership in the General Assembly to stop playing political games with public education.”

Amanda Thompson is a math coach at Walter G. Byers School and a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators, which organized the protests in Charlotte. She says at least 15 Charlotte-area schools had teacher walk-ins. A Raleigh News & Observer reporter says at least seven schools in Wake County also had walk-ins.Thompson says the protests are about more than teacher pay.

"It’s definitely not about teachers, it’s not about raises," Thompson said. "It’s about funding our school system, because our kids need social workers, psychologists. They need less testing. They need more qualified teachers on staff who want to stay in this field."

A spokesperson for the NCAE said the organization will wait to see what legislators do in response to Cooper's veto before planning any more protests.

Correction: An earlier version of this story failed to mention that members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators worked with NCAE to organize the walk-ins 

Michael Falero is a radio reporter, currently covering voting and the 2020 election. He previously covered environment and energy for WFAE. Before joining WFAE in 2019, Michael worked as a producer for a number of local news podcasts based in Charlotte and Boston. He's a graduate of the Transom Story Workshop intensive on Cape Cod and UNC Chapel Hill.