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Education association protesting state budget Monday

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Association of Educators is inviting school faculty, staff and supporters to meet in Raleigh this Monday to protest state’s education budget.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a budget Friday that was drafted and passed by the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly.
“We just want to let the legislative body know that we’re not happy about the decisions that they’ve made,” said Marian Thompson, president of the Rowan-Salisbury Association of Educators.
Thompson said she and the rest of association’s executive board are planning to attend a Moral Monday protest march in Raleigh with others from across the state.
“We want to have our voices heard… that we are concerned about these important matters concerning the education budget,” Thompson said. “We’re calling upon all Rowan-Salisbury educators, family and friends that can and will to converge on Raleigh on Monday.”
The Moral Monday protest march will be held starting at Halifax Mall, just behind the legislative building in Raleigh, at 6 p.m. Marchers will walk to a stage set up in the 100 block of Fayetteville Street, where speakers will address the crowd.
Participants are encouraged to get to Raleigh before 5 p.m., or as early as possible because of expected traffic. They are also asked to wear comfortable walking shoes and the color red.
More information about the event is available at www.ncae.org.
“This is a peaceful protest,” Thompson said. “There will be no planned arrests unlike previous moral Mondays.”
Thompson said the local group doesn’t have the funds to provide transportation, so they’re encouraging people to arrange their own.
“If they are serious about what this education budget is going to do to our schools and our teachers, we ask them to kindly just take the time and meet us in Raleigh on Monday and wear red,” Thompson said.
She said educators are concerned about the budget for several reasons.
It eliminates more than 9,000 education positions, Thompson said, including many teacher assistants. It provides no pay increases and eliminates career status (tenure) for all teachers. Starting in 2018, teachers will be placed on one-year to four-year contracts.
Starting in the 2014-15 fiscal year, teachers will receive no additional pay for earning master’s degree unless their job requires it.
The teaching fellows program, which gives tuition grants for education students, will no longer be funded. The state budget does increase funding for the Teach for America training program for teachers.
N.C. Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican representing part of Rowan County, said he understands the concerns people have about the education budget because there are so many changes.
But he said job losses were overestimated in the past and are likely exaggerated for political purposes.
He also said there has been an increase in education funding over the last two years. That is after a cut, though, made by the Republican-led General Assembly for the previous budget.
Warren said the budget includes five additional vacation days, new education innovation grants and more funding for school resource officers. It also includes an “opportunity scholarship” program of grants for low-income students to help pay for private school tuition.
A “pay for excellence” program for teachers starts in the second year of the budget, he said.
“I’m disappointed that there was no money in there for a raise for teachers this year, and there wasn’t a continuation of the master’s degree program for those already in it,” Warren said. “I advocated for both of those.”
He said there may be a way, in the legislature’s short session, to add teacher pay increases and reinstate the master’s program for those already working toward a degree.
“I think it’s an overall good budget,” Warren said. “They’re never are what you want them to be, but they’re as good as you can make them.”

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