Thousands of North Carolina teachers marched. Now what?

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina politicians and the public are waiting to see what happens next after thousands of teachers rallied to demand increased spending on public schools.

An estimated 19,000 people marched through the state's capital city. Previous strikes, walkouts and protests in West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Colorado and Oklahoma have led legislators to improve education funding.

The state's teacher advocacy group wants the Republican-dominated legislature to stop tax cuts on upper-income households and corporations taking effect in January.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper says the money should go for an average 8 percent teacher pay raise this year, plus money for textbooks and help for teachers who shell out for classroom supplies.

Legislative leaders have promised an average 6 percent pay raise for educators, which would be the fifth in five years.

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North Carolina's Democratic governor is telling the thousands of teachers who came to Raleigh demanding higher pay and more education funding that if Republican lawmakers won't support them, they should be voted out of office.

Gov. Roy Cooper spoke at Wednesday's "Rally for Respect," put on by the North Carolina Association of Educators. He promoted his budget proposal, which works toward bringing teacher pay up to the national average in four years by blocking tax cuts that GOP lawmakers already approved for corporations and high wage-earners.

Cooper is working to overturn Republican super-majorities in the state legislature. He says voters have to decide to back incumbents or candidates "who truly support public education."

Republican lawmakers say they're raising teacher pay for the fifth straight year, raising average salaries by thousands of dollars since the Great Recession.

But teachers say that with inflation, they're still making 9 percent less than they did nine years ago.

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Some North Carolina legislators say they're listening to teachers crammed by the thousands into the state capital, but they're not giving in to demands to sharply increase public school spending.

Republican Sen. Bill Cook said after Wednesday's 30-minute opening of the state legislature's annual session he isn't swayed by the activism. Cook says he thinks the teachers are caught up in a national movement after demonstrations in West Virginia, Arizona and elsewhere. No school districts in Cook's eight-county Outer Banks region canceled classes for the rally.

Cook says he thinks the rally is more about supporting the Democratic Party in a political season than economic upset. He says he thinks teachers know the legislature is on the right track with five years of salary raises and merit-based bonuses.

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Thousands of teachers have gathered in front of the North Carolina Legislative Building where the route of their march ends.

Lines to enter the legislature's front and rear entrances wrapped along the building's perimeter. Entry was going at a slow and steady pace as security officers use metal detectors and bag scanners to screen people entering.

Once inside, some teachers were seeking to meet with lawmakers, while others were trying to get seats in the gallery to watch legislative debate. The General Assembly was set to start its yearly work session Wednesday.

An afternoon teacher rally was also planned after the morning's march.

The march and rally were organized to demand better pay for teachers and more resources for public schools.

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Thousands of teachers wearing red are gathering ahead of a march through downtown Raleigh to demand more resources from North Carolina lawmakers.

Clusters of teachers were gathering ahead of the march Wednesday morning at meeting spots to carpool downtown for the start of the march at 10:30 a.m. Marchers were traveling to the capital city from around the state.

Tracy Brumble, a teacher at Millbrook Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, was with about a dozen fellow teachers at the school waiting for a bus to carry them to the march's starting point Wednesday. They were all wearing red t-shirts, matching the color of the #RedForEd theme of the day.

Brumble said the group wants lawmakers to know they need more funds for building upkeep, textbooks, and student resources. She says the goal is "a better environment for public education."

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)