NC Superintendent says he supports teachers, but not day of planned rally

Concerns about schools closing for NC rally

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - With less than two days until a sea of red takes over the streets of the State Capitol in Raleigh, thousands of teachers plan to march in Raleigh this Wednesday. But the day chosen to do so - is a day North Carolina’s State Superintendent, Mark Johnson, says he cannot support.

Johnson says he 100 percent supports the state’s teachers. He says it’s the organizers of this rally which he has an issue with particularly because May 1, the day of the rally, is supposed to be a school day - but now so many schools have had to close, and that’s the area he doesn’t support.

“I cannot support these organizers’ efforts to close school, in order to have a protest,” says Johnson. "I want to make very clear that I am separating the organizers of this event from teachers.”

Johnson says despite his support of teachers, he’s upset to see the rally take place on an instructional school day.

Already six districts in our local area are closing the day of the rally due to so many teacher absences - and that story is the same for many districts across the state. Johnson says schools have already lost a lot of days this year due to inclement weather.

“I just did not want to see those students miss anymore days of school," says Johnson. “Many students don’t get the nutrition they need for the day unless they are at school.”

Johnson also realizes the burden closing schools has on families and child care plans. He says he would have preferred organizers to plan the rally on day where school is not in session or arrange it after school lets out.

“When this would have had just as much of an impact, the general assembly would have been in session. Teachers could have shown up and made their voices heard to the general assembly with just as powerful of a statement.”

We also asked Johnson about a recent provision introduced in the State Education Budget, within the past week. The provision would change state law which prevents schools from closing on school days for future teacher rallies.

It would ban schools from giving permission for teachers to use personal leave on a school day unless they can confirm that a substitute teacher is available. Johnson says the provision in his eyes, boils down to school safety.

“We have to make sure that schools are safe places and what happens if we have too many teachers requesting time off without the appropriate coverage?” asked Johnson. "We would have to close school for that day. That’s obviously an issue that we don’t want to have happen year after year after year.”

State law currently says that school districts have to grant leave requests if they’re made at least five days in advance and if a substitute is available.

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