In response to the March for Students and Rally for Respect by thousands of educators, legislators from Davidson County believe they had positive discussions with residents, and insist that more will be done for teachers.

Around 20,000 teachers filled downtown Raleigh on Wednesday, most of them donning red T-shirts and chanting "red for ed." The rally followed movements in other states, including West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona.

Rep. Larry Potts, R-Davidson County, said he viewed the event as more of a rally as opposed to a protest.

He added that the people he spoke with traveled to Raleigh to share their opinions about the current environment teachers and students face.

"I tried to convey to them that the Republicans have not been in charge, but about 10 of that 150 years," Potts said. "And the party that says 'we're the party of teachers' let them lag and fall behind and let them get into these situations, and that we've made a concerted effort."

According to the National Education Association, North Carolina’s average teacher salary is $50,861, which is 37th-best in the country. The average salary for a U.S. teacher is $60,483. In 2017, the state also ranked 39th in spending per student at $9,329 per child. That was approximately $2,300 less than the national average, which was $11,642.

When the effects of inflation are included, from 2008-09 to 2017-18, the average salary has decreased by 9.4 percent, according to the association.

Sen. Cathy Dunn, R-Davidson County, said she had good discussions with residents in which she told them that better outcomes are coming in the future.

"We're listening and letting them know that we have provided raises the last five years for them and there's already another raise in the budget for next year," Dunn said. "They were very nice. Nobody was ugly or upset. They just expressed concerns about books, teacher pay and things like that."

Rep. Sam Watford could not be reached for comment.

Republicans in the General Assembly recently created a website, ncteacherraise.com, where educators can view figures about teacher pay raises and calculate raises under Republican leadership.

According to the website, 44,647 teachers have received a raise of at least $10,000 under Republican leadership, with an average pay raise of $8,600 since 2013. Republican legislators have promised a 6.2 percent raise in the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget, which would bring the average salary to $53,600.

In Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year, he calls for an average increase of 8 percent in teacher salary with no educator receiving less than 5 percent. Cooper claimed that under his plan, the state would reach at least the national average in four years.

At the teacher's rally Wednesday, Cooper said the state should freeze the tax cut for corporations and people making more than $200,000 a year to allow for the teacher pay increases.

"Let me say it again: teachers don’t teach for the incomes — they teach for the outcomes," Cooper said at the rally. "Outcomes that include better educated and successful students. Better pay is just one of the ways we can show our respect for you. But we must do more for our schools. We have to invest in textbooks and digital learning materials! We have to improve the physical condition of our schools! We have to hire more nurses, more counselors, more school resource officers! And we have to treat teachers like the professionals you are! My budget does all of that. It does it because we have to."

Potts claimed that Cooper's wish for an 8 percent increase in average salary is a political move because he knows it will not be a part of the actual budget.

The representative said the evidence that the future is bright for North Carolina teachers is in what the legislature has committed thus far.

"Find a single state in the 50 states that's giving their teachers after this budget, (a 25) percent raise in four years," Potts said. "Find another state that's made that commitment."

Ben Coley can be reached at (336) 249-3981, ext. 227 or at ben.coley@the-dispatch.com. Follow Ben on Twitter: @LexDispatchBC