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NC Teachers Want Info Before Responding To Pay Impasse

teacher walk-in
Michael Falero
Teachers at Oaklawn Language Academy near uptown Charlotte protest before school in November.

RALEIGH — North Carolina's chief lobbying group for teachers is seeking additional input from members before determining a response to the extended state budget stalemate, with a walkout among potential options, the group's president said Thursday.

A caucus within the North Carolina Association of Educators already has been surveying members, asking teachers how long they'd be willing to stay out of the classroom to get pay raises and benefits they are seeking. State law says strikes by public employees are illegal.

The NCAE's governing board, meeting Wednesday, didn't authorize any statewide action but ordered a comprehensive survey to gauge support for a variety of actions, including a possible walkout, President Mark Jewell said.

"Depending on the outcome of the survey, the (board) will discuss possible next steps to ensure our members’ voices are being heard," Jewell said in a news release.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper haven't been able to agree on a two-year spending plan that was supposed to be in place last July. Experienced-based pay raises are the only salary increases for K-12 teachers currently in place for this school year.

Cooper vetoed the two-year budget in June, with the absence of robust teacher pay increases among his reasons. The budget proposed average 3.9% raises over two years. Cooper wanted twice that average. The legislature met briefly last week and won't reconvene until late April.

The NCAE, which is a close Cooper ally, held large pro-education funding rallies at the Legislative Building in May 2018 and May 2019, leading to dozens of school systems shuttering their doors on those days.

Teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma walked off the job in recent years to pressure politicians, despite legal bans on strikes in those states.