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The protest comes after recent teacher strikes and walkouts in states like Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma.

Luke Miles, a 31-year-old middle school social studies teacher from Wake Forest, said he came because his students deserved better than crumbling school buildings and constant teacher turnover. "You can't silence us all".

Hundreds of teachers in red T-shirts filled a spectators gallery and chanted "remember, remember, we vote in November" as the Republican-controlled General Assembly started its session.

North Carolina teachers earn about $50,000 on average, ranking 39th in the country past year, the National Education Association reported last month.

Rep. Mark Brody spent a lot of time Wednesday explaining that when he wrote "union thugs" were behind the rally that brought thousands of educators to Raleigh, he wasn't talking about individual teachers.

Teachers also are known for apples, and the Triangle might soon be as well.

More than three dozen school districts that together educate more than two-thirds of the state's 1.5 million public school students have chose to close classrooms to allow for the show of strength by the teachers and their advocacy group. "School administration is out of touch".

The demands of their main advocacy group, the North Carolina Association of Educators, include raising per-pupil spending and pay for teachers and support staff to the national average, and increasing school construction to match the state's population growth.

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In the office of Republican Representative Kelly Hastings, a group of teachers talked about the need for more teacher assistants.

Thousands of teachers in North Carolina made their way to downtown Raleigh to march to the state legislature and demand teacher pay increases and better educational spending, among other things.

She said she spends nights and weekends looking for tools she needs to teach her students effectively, even at the cost of spending time with her own family. "I think we need to listen to them". Their pay increased by 4.2 percent over the previous year - the second-biggest increase in the country - and was estimated to rise an average 1.8 percent this year, but that still represents a 9.4 percent slide in real income since 2009 due to inflation, the NEA said. "Don't cancel a day of school", Irvin said. It helps the process. He said they should be paid like the professionals they are.

The windows of many GOP legislators were covered with signs and pamphlets promoting a website - www.ncteacherraise.com - for how teachers could track years' worth of pay and other compensation raises. The legislature also phased out the state's estate tax. They said Republican leaders should be more concerned about doing more, given that North Carolina remains ranked in the low 30s for teacher pay nationwide.

According to the National Education Association, North Carolina ranks 39th in public school teacher pay in the U.S. Teachers received a 4.2 percent pay bump past year, but they still earn less than what they were making a decade ago when adjusted for inflation. "This semester, one of my former students approached me and pulled out her AP history book smiling because my name was in the front cover". Larry Hall, head of the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and former leader of the Democratic caucus in the House.

"If you want good education you have to be willing to pay for it".

"All of this will be fruitless unless we take this energy and passion to the ballot box and change those who are making the policy", Jewell said. "We stop the tax cuts that are planned".

Educators across the state walked out of schools and gathered for a rally in Raleigh in hopes that lawmakers will hear their calls for higher pay and funding for classroom resources they say have been diminished by a decade of cuts while major corporations have gotten tax breaks.


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