Teachers want more pay, benefits, support staff. Will CMS shut down again over it?

More than 350 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers have asked for a day off work on May 1, when teachers statewide will lobby state legislators in Raleigh for higher pay and more support staff.

CMS closed schools for a similar event in May 2018, when about 2,000 of the district’s teachers marched in Raleigh. Officials concluded they couldn’t safely and effectively hold classes with that many absences.

As of Tuesday, nearly a month ahead of the event, 351 teachers have requested personal days off. That’s about 4 percent of the district’s 9,400 certified teachers.

“We are hoping to match or exceed last year’s number,” Erlene Lyde, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, said by email. The group has just begun its social media campaign in advance of the event, she added.

It’s not yet clear how CMS will respond this year.

“CMS continues to monitor the situation and will act to best ensure the safety of students and staff while maximizing each day of teaching and learning during the school year,” spokesman Brian Hacker said. “The district will update students, families, staff and the community as information is available.”

North Carolina law lets teachers take personal leave with five days’ notice, as long as a substitute is available and the teacher pays a $50 deduction.

The All Out for Public Education gathering in Raleigh is organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators. NCAE President Mark Jewell said the association hopes to match last year’s turnout, in which an estimated 30,000 teachers and other community members besieged legislators.

While CMS and some other districts including Durham and Chapel Hill-Carrboro closed for last year’s event, Jewell said he hopes school systems that expect heavy teacher absences May 1 will switch a work day later in the school calendar so classroom time isn’t lost.

“Last year was about changing the policy makers” ahead of last November’s elections, Jewell said. “This year is about changing policy.”

The association says it will demand that legislators:

  • Hire more school librarians, social workers, nurses and other health professional to meet national standards.
  • Set a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all school staff and a 5 percent raise for non-certified staff, teachers and administrators.
  • Expand Medicaid in the state to cover more students and their families.
  • Reinstate state retiree health benefits and higher pay for advanced degrees, both previously eliminated by past legislatures.

CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox’s proposed budget for the next school year includes $32.5 million in higher pay for teachers and staff, including a goal of making the local supplements such that teachers are paid the highest in the state. His proposal also included $21.8 million in a category including enhanced social and emotional support programs.