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NC teachers take part in 'walk-in'

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NCAE President Rodney Ellis says GOP criticism of Monday's planned teacher walk-in is unfair. NCAE President Rodney Ellis says GOP criticism of Monday's planned teacher walk-in is unfair.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Public school teachers, fired up over the state of education in North Carolina, voiced their frustrations Monday morning during what's being billed as a teacher "walk-in."  

"Educators are going to meet outside the building, wearing red. They're going to walk into the doors collectively, just to show support for one another and show that we're walking in and not walking out on Nov. 4," North Carolina Association of Educators President Rodney Ellis said.

That scene happened at Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh and E.K. Powe in Durham and other schools around the state.

At Lacy, more than 100 teachers and parents stood in front of Lacy carrying signs saying, "We love our teachers" and "Lacy Strong."

Five minutes later, they walked into the school lobby and to the multipurpose room, where they watched a video about teachers getting low salaries as some in the crowd wiped tears from their eyes. (You can see the video here).

After that, some teachers made speeches about the situation. Teachers did not get raises in the most recent state budget.

At Durham's Powe elementary, teachers, parents and students gathered at the front steps to discuss the issue.

"You see people where they truly are considering other professions. That's my concern," said principal Michael Somers. "The walk-out wasn't on November 4. I'm concerned come June 10 and days after that. You're going to see plenty of walk-out as people find other jobs or teaching jobs in other states."

Morghean McPhail, a fifth-grade teacher at Powe, said, "I think a lot of us were like, you know, especially in the elementary schools, 'What's going to happen?' And I'm not sure I want to walk out on my kids.

"The minute we heard about the walk-in, it just took off because that really signified what we're all interested in, which is bringing all of us together  to fight this together."

About two dozen North Carolina teachers protested at the state Capitol.

State law prohibits strikes or work stoppages by public employees.

The beginning salary for a North Carolina teacher is $30,800, although individual school districts can, and often do, supplement those salaries. But North Carolina teachers are among the lowest-paid in the country - the National Education Association has ranked North Carolina 46th in terms of teacher pay.

But the issue has been a contentious one in tough budget years. Gov. Pat McCrory's original budget proposal included a 1 percent raise for all state employees, but that was eventually eliminated in the final budget.

Monday's walk-in was denounced by N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger in a statement early Monday morning, who singled out the NCAE in his comments and called it a "media stunt."

"We appreciate the overwhelming majority of our teachers whose hard work and commitment are vital to the success of our children. And we appreciate the right of North Carolinians to exercise their first amendment rights, and welcome a productive dialogue," said Berger, a Republican.

"But we don't appreciate the bully tactics of an organized union that puts kids' safety at risk to gin up its membership and inflate the salaries of its executives. There is a time and place for everything – our schools are not the place for politics and our children should not be the pawns."

Some teachers were planning a walk out in protest over cuts to teacher's assistants, a freeze in pay and other reforms outlined in this year's state budget, but bowing to pressure from the NCAE, the event is now being called a "walk-in." 

Teachers at some schools planned to invite parents and lawmakers into their classrooms to see the work that's being done.

Still, that's not silencing critics like Wake County Republican Party Chair Donna Williams. In an email sent to media outlets this past week, she said of the walk-in, "Apparently, those parties promoting the event see no problem using students to deliver their message of unionization and to promote their upcoming union rally; however, the Wake County Republican Party does."

Ellis says the criticism is not fair.

"I don't think there's any crime behind just sitting and having a conversation," Ellis said.  "I don't know why it's such a fearful idea that parents come to the table and begin having dialogue with educators about what it takes to be successful in our schools."

Walk-in events were planned in Durham, Wake, Guilford, and Buncombe counties. In Durham alone, they are planned at least five schools.

It should be noted, many schools statewide are not planning to participate.

The teacher walk-in is a statewide effort put on by the NCAE.

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