A teacher from New Hanover County complained, "They've taken three dead rats out of my classroom".
Pennington said some teachers can get better pay somewhere other than in the schools. "Now we need to put our money where our trust is", Cooper told cheering protesters in red T-shirts who filled a plaza outside the legislature.
This rally wasn't just in support of teachers getting an increase in pay.
On the eve of the rally, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he was disappointed that "a million kids are not going to be in school (Wednesday) because a political organization wants to have folks come here to communicate with us or send a message or whatever".
"They have hard jobs and they deserve our respect and support" that he said goes beyond what the legislature can provide in funding to community and employer resources.
The march is an effort to speak to legislators and hold them accountable for the next six months, and to make teachers and students their first priority, said Tim Crowley, communications manager for NCAE. "It was great to see all of us make an impact, we hope, on our General Assembly".
As the march started, teachers were energized and chanting "remember, remember we vote in November", while carrying signs, some of which said "money can't buy us happiness, but it can buy working technology, books, copiers and copy paper, basic school supplies, teachers and support staff, working AC units and plumbing, a way out of a second job, money to spend on our own children, and a savings for retirement".
In addition, teachers are asking for a reduction in class sizes and an increase in the number of school nurses, counselors and social workers to enhance community health. No arrests were made.
It would raise teacher salaries by putting a stop to planned tax cuts for corporations and high income households. Republican leaders have flatly rejected his idea but an incensed crowd sided with Cooper as they chanted his name and pushed through crowds of people to shake his hand.
"We are stepping up and standing up for our kids", one teacher told NBC Charlotte. We talked about teacher pay. "She was a public school teacher in Nash County".
Cooper, who is working to eliminate the GOP's veto-proof majorities in fall elections, urged teachers to ask lawmakers, "are you going to support even more tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy, or are you going to support much better teacher pay and investment in our public schools?"
Carolynn Phillips, a middle school arts teacher from coastal Brunswick County who was named the county's Teacher of the Year for 2018, called Wednesday's protest a cry for respect from teachers whose pay ranks toward the bottom of the teacher pay scales in the 50 US states.
This sentiment was diametrically opposed by the rally organizers in the National Education Association (NEA) and its state affiliate, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), who called the protest as a one-day rally to avert a strike by allowing restive educators to let off steam.
Among them was Lisa Godwin, the state's 2017 teacher of the year. Some, in fact, had to seek personal days off on Wednesday and pay $50 for a substitute before districts canceled class. This is enough to give a $49,000 bonus to all 3.2 million full-time teachers in the United States or increase per-pupil spending by more than $3,000 for each of the country's 50.7 million public school students. It is being organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators, whose members are unhappy with the Republican-controlled General Assembly's decisions on teacher salaries and school funding. They've had some salary increases in recent years, but when adjusted for inflation, they've lost 9.4% in pay since 2009.
Information from The Associated Press is included this report.