More than 250 people marched through the streets of downtown Asheville today, July 29, protesting the North Carolina General Assembly's education plan, which includes cuts but no raises for teachers, and ends tenure. The march was organized by the Asheville City Association of Educators, in conjunction with an NCAE protest in Raleigh.
The marchers gathered at Asheville Middle School before proceeding to Vance Monument. The crowd included parents, teachers, students and other opponents of the legislature's education overhaul. The NCAE has announced it plans to sue over some measures, including a pilot voucher program, asserting that these violate the state constitution.
Those gathered at Asheville Middle School wore red, and many held "Support NC Public Education" signs. One of those was Michael Davis, a junior at Asheville High. "I'm supporting schools and public teachers," he said. "My mother's a teacher. I come from a long line of teachers. Students aren't getting the education they need because of the cutbacks, and lots of the students are suffering from that."
Chuck Larrick, a 7th-grade teacher, held a sign grading the General Assembly an F- "because without a strong public education system you can't build a strong economy." Staff and supply cuts, he believe, endanger this, as do decreased pay for teachers. Along with no raise in this year's budget, the state ended a bonus for educators who have a postgraduate degree.
"What new teachers want to come to North Carolina?" he told Xpress. "Teachers going across the state line are going to make 50 percent more than they make now. We've already lost teachers this year, and it's because the way the state is treating them."
"If things don't get better in the next few years, we're going to have to move to another state so that he can get a good education," Eva Chazl, a teacher and parent, said. "More important to me than my salary is that my child get a good education. I've already heard of six teachers who've left this summer. We're going to be losing tremendous talent."
A group of retirees said they'd be willing to pay higher taxes to support a better education system.
As they marched towards the center of downtown, the line of people chanted, "Forward together, not one step back," and got supportive horn honks from passing cars. When they reached the monument, organizer Tasha Lewis, a kindergarten teacher, shouted, "Our voices do matter," and thanked the crowd for joining educators in the protest.
"I never thought that what I love to do so much would be in jeopardy."