GREENVILLE, PITT COUNTY - Over 50 students and teachers gathered on ECU's campus Monday to speak out against recent state education budget cuts.
"Other states have begun to re-invest in education and North Carolina is still cutting back," said John Given, an Associate Professor of Foreign Language at ECU. "We need to let the people in Raleigh know that we can't continue on with business as usual."
Given said the University has seen millions of dollars cut from their budget. "It is literally crippling what we do as teachers," he said.
The problem, said Given, effects education at the earliest of levels. "Public schools from Kindergarten on up have had their budgets cut just as much," said Given.
Spencer Howard is an education major at ECU. He says both of his parents work in the state's public school system. "I've had to hear about it's effect on my family a lot," said Howard.
Howard says the cuts have resulted in the disappearance of funds which he had hoped would help send him to grad school. "It really hurts to know that, with furthering my education, my skills and I'm not gonna get rewarded for it," he said.
Not everyone agrees with what the teachers are doing.
"We appreciate the overwhelming majority of our teachers whose hard work and commitment are vital to the success of our children. And we appreciate the right of North Carolinians to exercise their first amendment rights, and welcome a productive dialogue," said Senator Phil Berger. "But we don't appreciate the bully tactics of an organized union that puts kids' safety at risk to gin up its membership and inflate the salaries of its executives. There is a time and place for everything – our schools are not the place for politics and our children should not be the pawns."
In an interview with Newschannel 12 after a similar rally in August, Governor Pat McCrory said he's been "honest about the budget."
Howard says if things don't change "we're all just gonna have to endure it and fight through it like we always do."
Givens says their "biggest fear is that students just are not going to get the education. That they're not going to have classes they need to graduate."