North Carolina Teachers Join the #RedforEd Movement

They’re turning out in force to paint the streets red — with protest gear, that is — and they’re demanding better working conditions. North Carolina teachers are the latest to join the #RedforEd wave that’s sweeping the nation as teachers in multiple states walk out and visit their lawmakers during the budget planning process.

On Wednesday, May 16, at least 19,000 teachers appeared in Raleigh with signs, protest chants and an agenda.

Across the United States, K-12 educators are extremely low-paid, a problem that’s particularly bad in conservative states. But low pay isn’t the only challenge. Some teachers haven’t seen adjustments for increases in costs of living, while state lawmakers attack benefits like pensions. They’re also seeing support staff struggle to make do on low wages and even fewer benefits. Meanwhile, schools are falling apart, textbooks are wildly out of date, and educators pay out of pocket for art supplies and other classroom basics.

Teachers are fed up: They want to focus on instruction, not finances.

The teachers’ list of demands includes: Raising funding to be in line with the rest of the nation; an increase in school counselors, nurses and social workers; a school construction bond; and better pay and benefits for teachers.

In addition, North Carolina educators are calling for a Medicaid expansion. Many low-income students rely on Medicaid for health care, or are currently ineligible and unable to access health care because they can’t get coverage through other means.

Finally, teachers are also taking a swing at corporate tax cuts, saying they don’t want to see any more cuts until school funding has improved. While they’re targeting the state’s legislature, it’s also a shot across the bow at the Trump tax plan, which ushered in cushy tax benefits for corporations and the wealthy at the expense of social programs.

In North Carolina, as in other states, conservative legislators often promote such cuts on the grounds that they attract corporations and potential investors, generating much-needed revenue. But critics of this practice claim the touted benefits never arrive — in fact, corporations like Amazon and Walmart often have employees relying on public benefits because they’re paid so little.

Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia have also engaged in teacher strikes this year, with some winning key concessions. In North Carolina, an estimated 1.5 million public school students were unable to attend class because of the strike.

Meanwhile, because North Carolina teachers aren’t unionized, they didn’t benefit from some of the protections offered by union coverage. Some were forced to pay for substitute teachers so they could strike without losing their jobs.

North Carolina spends less than $10,000 per student, per year, making it 38th in the nation for school spending. Teachers report issues like libraries without librarians, losing homes to foreclosure because their wages don’t pace inflation and other hardships.

State lawmakers say they’ll commit to a 6.3 percent raise for teachers. Teachers counter that when you consider salary freezes and inflation, they’ve lost 9.4 percent since 2009 — so this wouldn’t even bring them even with their salary history, let alone the rest of the country.

If calling on lawmakers to improve their pay doesn’t work, teachers have another plan — one which they shouted from the galleries of the capital building during legislative session: Remember, remember, we vote in November.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Arizona Education Association


Anna R
Past Member 4 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Cindy S
Cindy Smith4 months ago


Thomas M
Thomas M4 months ago

thank you

Joan E
Joan E4 months ago

For our society to function as it should, we need to invest in education and all the social services people need, not let Republicans choke off our needs to keep their rich benefactors happy as pigs rolling in the mud.

Chrissie R
Chrissie R4 months ago

Geez...teachers shouldn't have to demand!

Danii P
Past Member 4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Angela G
Angela G4 months ago

I hope they are heard. Also, since social workers were mentioned as needed by teachers in this article, I will put in a plug that actually most social worker/counselors are paid even less than teachers.

Winn A
Winn Adams5 months ago


Winn A
Winn Adams5 months ago


Anne M
Anne Moran5 months ago

My sister was a teacher in the 60s,, and in those days, teachers were highly respected, and made good money... - Hard to wrap my head around the fact these hardworking professionals are no longer revered, and paid a good salary as days gone by.... - What in the world would we do without our beloved teachers ??