Source: The News &Observer
The Rev. William Barber said at an April rally marking the 10-year anniversary of the Moral Monday movement that it was time once again to “stand up, fight back” against North Carolina’s Republican leadership – and in May, he stayed true to his word.
Barber led more than 100 protesters into the Legislative Building on May 24, protesting against a state budget that he said would hurt the poor.
“It might be a good day to get arrested,” he said, going through metal detectors at the security desk, according to The News & Observer.
No arrests were made, but Barber and the protesters did go to the second floor of the building where he then preached against the proposals put forth in the Republican-controlled legislature, including tax cuts that would benefit only the wealthiest North Carolinians and private school vouchers that would be funded by public money at the expense of a larger public education budget.
“This is the time that we must stand up, and legislators, you must stand up, too,” Barber said.
Barber and the protesters gathered in an area between entrances to the state House and Senate chambers. Multiple Democratic lawmakers showed up to the gathering and Barber told The News & Observer that Republicans had been invited as well, but none responded to his invitation.
Barber recognized the fact that Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers and can override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto – just as they did on abortion earlier in May – but he said he would shine a light on the NCGOP’s policy decisions in an effort to motivate voters from the state’s underrepresented communities.
“We know they might outvote us but that’s not why we mobilize,” Barber said in his speech. “We mobilize so what they’re doing is not done in the dark… We’re going to wear your hind parts out on Election Day.”
Barber and the crowd then marched to Senate leader Phil Berger’s office to hand deliver a letter highlighting policies that he said will hurt the working poor.
Berger’s staff did not open the door as Barber and the protesters stood outside singing and chanting, The News & Observer reported. Protesters chanted “Open the door!” but the door did not open. The protesters then moved on to House Speaker Tim Moore’s office where a member of his staff accepted the letter.
House Republicans’ budget proposal offers a 5.5% average raise for teachers, compared to Cooper’s average of 10% in 2023 and 6% in 2024. In addition, state Republicans’ budget fails to meet Leandro funding numbers, offers less for child care investments, and features no bonuses for teachers and state workers.
The House Republican budget also prioritizes blocking schools, local governments, and colleges from requiring students and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Senate budget was similarly awful. It calls for tax cuts, a massive increase in funding for private school vouchers at the expense of public school funding, and lower raises for teachers and state employees than even compared to the House budget.
The bill includes 5% raises for state workers across the board over the two years of the budget and teachers would get an average pay increase of 4.5% over two years.
Cooper said the proposal is a “historic disaster for public education” because “It fails to fund basic needs and will force school leaders to cut everything from bus routes to courses.”
Cooper tweeted “[T]he Senate budget slaps veteran teachers with 15+ years in the classroom in the face with only a $250 raise spread over 2 years. But it rewards statewide politicians with big raises of more than 15-20%. That’s insulting, and it’s wrong.”
Republicans in the House and Senate will come together in the coming weeks to craft a conference budget to be voted on in both chambers.