RALEIGH — North Carolina educators, school staff and supporters gathered at the Red4Ed NC march and rally at the State Capitol. They rallied around the capitol to advocate for raising wages, mental and physical health, benefits and degree compensation.
The Red4Ed NC rally comes exactly a year after teachers, school staff and supporters marched and rallied for the first time for the same thing.
Alamance-Burlington School System teachers in partnership with the Alamance Burlington Association of Educators traveled together in a bus to Raleigh where they marched from the North Carolina Association of Educators to the state legislative building.
Patsy Simpson, member of the Alamance-Burlington System Board of Education, was along for the ride to support the teachers. To Simpson’s knowledge, she was the only person from the seven-member board to attend.
“I made it clear to the board that I will walk in unity with the teachers,” Simpson said.
Simpson said her job as a member of the ABSS is a reason why she should march and rally with Alamance County teachers in the county she represents.
“In order for me, as a member, to make policy, I would need to know what’s impacting our students,” Simpson said.
In a sea of red shirts, flags, posters and signage, teachers and allies marched down West South Street and Fayetteville Street in Raleigh with signs in hand, chanting phrases such as, “This is what democracy looks like."
Robert Vellani, a teacher at Cummings High School in Burlington, echoed similar sentiments as those chanting.
“It’s a part of the democracy. Kids need education,” Vellani said.
ABSS announced the day before the march that they were cancelling schools. At their Monday meeting before the rally, the ABSS decided against cancelling classes for the march, but bus drivers in the county protested, which forced a cancellation.
Crystal Bailey, an elementary school teacher for ABSS that attended the march, was disappointed after the board's meeting Monday night.
“Honestly, I cried when I read the email, in the news, about how it was our bus drivers that shut down Alamance County today," Bailey said.
Bailey said she went to Raleigh specifically to advocate for better pay for non-teacher staff like bus drivers.
The ABSS teachers brought the issue of low pay to Dennis Riddell, representative of House District 64, where Elon University is located.
One of the top five priorities the Red4EdNC Alamance County teachers addressed with Riddell was providing a $15 minimum wage for all school staff. When increasing the minimum wage was brought up to Riddell, he said he was not in favor of increasing it.
“A $15 minimum wage? I do not support it,” Riddell said.
Along with pay, Medicaid expansion was a priority of Red4Ed NC, and Robert Albis Williams High School teacher in ABSS said students needed more support for their mental health.
Riddell said the problem lies in the family dynamic of students.
“It is a large contributor, most directly connected to juvenile delinquency, dropping out of school drug use, erratic vile behavior is fatherlessness," Riddell said.
Rachel Ellis contributed to the reporting of this story.