RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A battle to shape perception over whether North Carolina’s public school spending is being cut or is just right is heating up with the traditional academic year less than a week away for school districts in mountain counties.

The North Carolina Association of Educators and other groups demonstrated Monday in Charlotte to protest what they see as lawmakers harming public education this year. Similar rallies are planned the rest of this week in Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Asheville, and Greenville.

Their complaints include that this year’s $21 billion state budget gives public schools $117 million less than what they would have had if lawmakers changed nothing and accounted for increased enrollment and inflation.

Republican lawmakers counter that they increased education spending by $360 million over last year.