Thousands of public school teachers and staff gathered on the Halifax mall next to the Legislative Building in the state capitol to push elected officials for better pay, retirement and more funding per student.

2019 teacher rally. Photo via Kelly Fahey.

Mark Jewell, President of the North Carolina Association of Teachers, told the gathered crowd that last year’s teachers’ rally successfully raised the profile of issues surrounding the lack of funding for North Carolina public schools.

“We heard, not only here in the streets of Raleigh, but we heard it in the ballot box,” Jewell said. “We didn’t care if you were Democrat [or] Republican. We cared if you valued public education.”

Jewell praised Governor Roy Cooper’s proposed budget, which he said makes “critical” investment in public education.

“There are investments! Yes, in texts books!” He told the crowd.

The association of teachers is asking for more health care staff per student, and a $15 minimum wage for support staff. They are also calling for expansions to Medicaid in North Carolina and the restoration of compensation for teachers with advanced degrees in their fields.

Speaking after Jewell, Governor Roy Cooper said educators are crucial to strong communities and need to be supported in their many roles.

Megan Deal traveled to the rally from Wilmington, where she teaches third grade at Winter Park Elementary school. Deal spoke to WCHL’s Kelly Fahey and said the funding increases teachers are asking for would make it possible for public school staff to give more attention to each of their students.

“We just need to support our students and our teachers and our schools better,” said Deal, who won the 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year award at her school. “We want whats best for our students and the way North Carolina is moving, we can provide them what they need.”