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North Carolina Democrats and Republicans respond to teacher rally in Raleigh

As thousands of teachers marched in Raleigh on Wednesday to demand pay raises and more funding for schools, a clear divide arose between the political aisles.

Republican groups stressed that teacher pay is on the rise and that conditions are getting better.

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said his party didn’t think it was wise for teachers to walk out of class during a “critical exam time.”

In a move meant to “help parents inconvenienced by this political move,” Woodhouse said, the party invited parents with children ages 3 to 12 for free play sessions at an indoor bounce house in Raleigh.

Republican volunteers were to staff a study room to assist students with homework.

“Last year, North Carolina was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for fastest-rising teacher pay, and we’re going to be offering another raise this year,” said Michele Nix, the state GOP vice chairwoman. “The General Assembly is working steadfastly on their teacher appreciation agenda, but we wanted to offer something today for parents to deal with this unexpected school closure.”

Democrats were quick to respond and say that the rally was about much more than pay.

“If a schools fix were as simple as a small pay raise, 20,000 teachers would not flood the streets of Raleigh,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action, a left-leaning political organization. “This is about teachers paying hundreds of dollars of their own money for basic classroom supplies because the legislature has cut classroom supply budgets in half over the last decade when adjusted for inflation. It’s about teachers forced to moonlight second jobs to make ends meet.”

Brenner also spoke negatively about “a legislature which continues to cut taxes for corporations instead of fund our public schools at the level our children deserve,” noting that North Carolina is ranked 39th in the country for per-student spending and 37th for teacher pay.

And classrooms have lost more than 7,000 teacher assistants in the last decade, said a Progress NC Action news release.

“No teacher should be forced to work a second job to make ends meet. No teacher should have to pay out of pocket for school supplies,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.

Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said his party is proud to stand with educators.

“For too long, our teachers have been asked to do more with less,” he said. “Democrats are committed to strengthening our public schools by putting our teachers and students first.”

Goodwin said that Gov. Roy Cooper has put forward a “responsible, forward-looking budget” that includes a meaningful raise for teachers and improved school safety.

The aim was to make North Carolina “among the best educated in the nation,” he said.

Again, Republicans weren’t convinced. Charles Hellwig, chairman of the Wake County Republican Party, faulted the “Democrat governor and Democrat lawmakers” for decreases in teacher pay.

“(They) were the ones that voted to cut teacher pay and furlough teachers,” said Hellwig. “Republicans are cleaning up Democrats’ attacks on teachers by improving the economy and offering five straight years of teacher pay raises, including the largest in state history. That’s why this decision to close school for a political rally and inconvenience parents seems so out of touch in North Carolina.”

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