After Republicans took control of state government in 2013, North Carolina ended the estate tax and lowered corporate taxes as well as some personal income taxes.
The actions, plus the recession, meant schools took a hit. Since 2009, the budgets for supplies, textbooks and school technology have been slashed by about half, according to the Public School Forum of North Carolina, a nonpartisan research group. And a greater share of teacher compensation has been dedicated toward pensions and health care costs.
Symone Kiddoo, 27, is a school social worker in Durham. On Tuesday, she packed and distributed hundreds of donated, bagged meals to students at Southwest Elementary School and Forest View Elementary School. Ms. Kiddoo is the sole social worker for both schools, where over half of the 1,400 students come from low-income families. The food was for students to eat, when school was closed for the walkout.
Ms. Kiddoo spends her days responding to behavioral incidents, like a student overturning a table, and counseling children through crises, like the death of a parent. She makes sure students who can’t see the chalkboard get glasses, and she maintains a food pantry and a clothing closet for children in need.
She earns about $42,000 a year and works a second job as a pool attendant at the Y.M.C.A. She said she was participating in the walkout not primarily because of low pay, but for more mental health funding to hire social workers, school psychologists and counselors.
“We are scrappers,” she said, able to get a lot done with few resources. Still, she said it would be easier if social workers were assigned to one school at a time.
As in Arizona, the last state to mount a widespread walkout, traditional public schools here have been challenged by the expansion of charter schools and private school vouchers.