Pitt County Schools plans to close next Wednesday after hundreds of teachers requested the day off to travel to Raleigh and demand state lawmakers increase funding for public education.
"Our number one priority in Pitt County Schools is student safety," Mildred Council, chair of the county's board of education, said in a release. "We must ensure that we have sufficient staffing in order to operate our schools in a safe and orderly manner. Otherwise, we have no choice but to close school."
About 10,000 teachers statewide are expected to attend the "March for Our Students and Rally for Respect" demonstration in the state capital, said Lauren Piner, president of the Pitt County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, which is organizing the march.
A recent report from the National Education Association, the largest professional organization for teachers, ranked the state 39th in the country for teacher pay and per-pupil spending.
About 325 teachers in the district requested the day off to attend the event, Piner said.
“It’s about making sure that our students have adequate resources, especially to be competitive in today’s global economy," Piner said. "It’s about making sure that our teachers are paid as professionals. We want to make sure that we’re attracting the best and the brightest to the profession.”
At least two buses will carry teachers from Greenville to Raleigh to attend the march, Piner said.
The demonstration comes after teachers in several other states have recently gone on strike, demanding higher pay and more resources for students.
“It’s definitely a domino effect. I don’t think we would be seeing this if it wasn’t for West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma," Piner said. "It’s really building off the momentum that those states created. In fact, the president of the West Virginia Education Association is actually going to be marching on May 16th.”