Wake County public schools join list of NC districts closing for May 1 teacher rally

By Kelly Hinchcliffe,

April 10, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County Public Schools announced Wednesday afternoon that it will close on May 1, bringing the total to seven of North Carolina’s 115 school districts to announce they are closing for the May 1 teacher rally in Raleigh.

Wake County is the state’s largest public school district and joins Durham, Orange, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Lexington and Guilford County and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools​ that have previously announced their intent to suspend class for the day.

Wake schools sent a text message to parents around 4:15 p.m. Wednesday and posted the news on social media about the same time.

The North Carolina Association of Educators, which is organizing the event, held a similar rally last year, which drew an estimated 19,000 people and closed more than 40 school systems. NCAE President Mark Jewell has predicted this year’s event will be even larger.

May 1 teacher rally
The N.C. Association of Educators is organizing a “May 1 Day of Action” to demand more support for public schools from state lawmakers. The following school districts have announced they are closing so teachers can attend the rally.

School districts closing on May 1

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
Durham Public Schools
Guilford County Schools
Lexington City Schools
Orange County Schools
Wake County Public School System
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
List updated April 10

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has pleaded with teachers to stay in the classroom instead of attending the rally so students don’t miss any instruction.

“I personally hope that teachers do not come on May 1 because we’ve had such a hard year this year with hurricanes and bad winter weather,” Johnson told WRAL News on Monday. “I just ask that teachers will consider coming perhaps on a day that doesn’t interfere with instruction. But also, importantly, we have certain school employees who won’t get paid if they don’t work, such as school bus drivers.”

Johnson asked teachers to consider taking action on a day when schools are not in session.

“I ask that teachers come over spring break and meet with me, meet with their lawmakers. Let’s have productive conversations,” he said. “But again, this doesn’t mean we don’t support teachers, we just have to ultimately realize that a lot of consequences happen if we ask for a day off of school.”

Sky 5 timelapse: Raleigh rally at the state Capitol Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools cancel classes for students ahead of planned May 1 teacher rally
Johnson, a Republican, has had a strained relationship with the NCAE and did not attend last year’s rally. Instead, he headed 100 miles east to meet with school leaders in Craven County near the coast.

A review of his text messages and emails from last May shows the superintendent received both praise and criticism from the public for his decision not to attend the rally. Some thanked him for refusing to support an event that “hurts the kids and has caused undue hardship,” while others viewed his refusal to participate as a “lack of support” for teachers.

This year, Johnson plans to spend the day on May 1 at the state Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh for the planned State Board of Education meeting.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson Emails, texts reveal NC superintendent’s internal discussions about 2018 teacher rally
NCAE leaders say last year’s event led to some changes in the state budget and at the ballot box. Teachers got raises this year, and Republicans lost their veto-proof majorities in the legislature.

NCAE’s president said the group has five priorities for this year’s rally:

  1. Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national professional-to-student standards.
  2. Provide a $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, a 5 percent raise for all ESPs (non-certified staff), teachers, administrators, and a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for retirees.
  3. Expand Medicaid.
  4. Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017.
  5. Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013.

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