Thousands of teachers, parents and students marched in Annapolis Monday night, seeking more funding for public schools. The march, which was organized by the Maryland State Education Association teachers union, culminated in the largest rally at the State House in recent memory.
Organizers say 200 buses carried teachers from across the state, as far as Garrett County in Western Maryland, about three hours away. They estimate that there were about 8,500 people filling the streets, many of them wearing red beanies and carrying red cowbells and signs.
The marchers were urging the General Assembly to approve $1 billion in new school funding. The money is included in a broad bill backed by legislative leaders and would be spread out across the next two fiscal years. It is slated to pay for expansions in universal pre-kindergarten, supports for struggling students and professional development for teachers. It also covers a pay raise for teachers.
The marchers were also pushing the legislature to pass a new school funding formula no later than next year’s General Assembly session.
The marching band from Maple Elementary School in Cambridge led the crowd down Rowe Boulevard toward a stage where a rotation of public officials called for more school funding.
“Every day, I know there are schools that have brown drinking water, that have no air conditioning. We have kids with no heat,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “It’s time to fund our schools. It’s time to fix our challenges.”
Many of the teachers marching were calling specifically for more pay.
Anthony Goode, a teacher at Laurel High School in Prince George’s County, carried a sign that read, “My take-home pay is barely enough to take home. Pay me.”
Goode said he teaches constitutional law, philosophy and U.S. history. He’s been teaching for 13 years, and he’s been at Laurel High School since 2012.
“We just want to be fairly compensated for what we do, and the state for too long has held back on teacher pay for various reasons,” Goode said. “They keep blaming it on the testing, they keep blaming it on the kids. And what it comes down to is they need to take a hard look at themselves.”