2020 candidates voice support for South Carolina teachers strike

2020 candidates voice support for South Carolina teachers strike
© Stefani Reynolds, Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopefuls rallied behind South Carolina teachers on Wednesday as thousands of educators marched on the state capital to demand higher pay and public school reforms.

“I stand with the South Carolina educators who are speaking up, organizing, and marching to the Statehouse today,” former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) wrote on Twitter. “We must pay our teachers a living wage, get them the resources they need, and fully invest in their classrooms. This can’t wait any longer.”

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“I stand with South Carolina teachers who are walking out for fairer pay, smaller classroom sizes, duty-free break time and full funding of the state’s promises to students,” Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Buttigieg campaign claims 'irregularities' in Nevada caucuses Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden MORE (I-Vt.) tweeted. “We need to treat educators with respect and dignity.”

“Today, teachers in South Carolina are marching for fair wages and improved working conditions. I stand with them,” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisClyburn: Biden 'suffered' from not doing 'enough' in early debates Sanders is a risk, not a winner House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (D-Calif.), who unveiled a proposal in March to boost teacher pay by an average of $13,500.

“As president, I will raise the average teacher pay in South Carolina by 19%, reduce teacher turnover, and ensure our teachers are paid their worth.”

The words of support came as several thousand South Carolina teachers and their supporters marched to the statehouse in Columbia to demand pay raises, smaller class sizes and more mental health counselors for students.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg campaign claims 'irregularities' in Nevada caucuses Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE, one of the latest entrants into the presidential contest, also expressed support for the protest on Wednesday, noting in a tweet that his wife, Jill Biden, is a teacher.

“I’m the proud husband of a teacher and know first-hand the impact of their work,” he wrote. “Teachers around the country and in South Carolina deserve to earn a living wage and have smaller class sizes so that America can continue to out-educate and lead the world.”

Another 2020 hopeful, Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announces tumor on kidney, will undergo treatment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dem anxiety grows ahead of Super Tuesday House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (D-N.J.) seized on the march in South Carolina to call for broader investment in education, saying that class sizes “are too big” and “resources slim.”

“As they march in South Carolina, let’s renew our call for education investment; teachers should be able to do their jobs without the burden of inadequate support & debt,” Booker tweeted.

While increases in public school funding and teacher pay have long been talking points for Democrats, the protest in Columbia gives the field of 2020 hopefuls a chance to show solidarity with an important voting bloc in a crucial early primary state.

South Carolina will be the fourth state to vote in the 2020 Democratic primary contest next year and the final early primary state before Super Tuesday. A successful performance in the Palmetto State could give candidates much-needed momentum by the time voting begins in a dozen other states.