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Protest on Jones Street

About 100 students, advocates for workers' rights, immigrants' rights and others protested in front of the Legislative Building on Wednesday.

This follows a Monday night protest at the Legislative Building where 17 people were arrested.

Wednesday's group marched from the edge of N.C. State's campus to Jones Street carrying banners condemning tuition increases, budget cuts and legislative proposals such as a voter ID law. Some of the banners read "Don't Kill Our Future," and "Stop Attacks on Workers."

Five people knelt in the middle of Jones Street while the crowd gathered around chanting "Pope says cut back, we say fight back," referring to state budget director Art Pope.

The doors of the Legislative Building were locked and security posted at the entrances in preparation for the march. Most legislators had cleared out by the time the marchers reached the building

UPDATE: Five protesters were arrested when they tried to push their way past officers who had lined up in front of the Legislative Building, General Assembly police Chief Jeff Weaver said. The five would be taken to the Wake County Jail and booked on assault charges, Weaver said.

About three dozen officers from the General Assembly police, Capitol police and Raleigh police departments gathered as the protest formed outside the statehouse. The arrests happened about 6:20 p.m. Earlier, several members of the legislative black caucus showed up at the rally and expressed their support for the protesters.

N.C. State faculty disagree with McCrory

Meanwhile, at N.C. State University, a new poll shows that professors don't see eye to eye with Gov. Pat McCrory regarding his recent comments on higher education in the much-talked about interview with radio talk show host Bill Bennett.

In a student-run survey known as the Pack Poll, 85 percent of faculty disagreed or strongly disagreed with McCrory's comment that gender studies should be housed at private universities and not subsidized by taxpayers.

Regarding the governor's comments that university funding should be based not on butts in seats but on "how many of those butts can get jobs," 82 percent of faculty disagreed.

When asked to rank the most important things a university can provide its students, the top answer of NCSU faculty was "a broad-based education that promotes intellectual growth," followed by "skills and knowledge that will be of general value in the working world," "training for a specific career or profession," and finally "help students improve their future earning potential."

The online poll was conducted Feb. 6-7 and drew 172 faculty responses. The margin of error was plus or minus 6.8 percentage points.

And about that NCSU forum

NCSU invites the community to join in its "Redesigning Democracy Summit" through Twitter. Just use the hashtag #RDS12. Or email thoughts, ideas, questions to emergingissues@ncsu.edu.

Read this to get an idea of what they're talking about: http://bit.ly/YFGA5J.

Both national party chairs at state Thursday for GOTV rallies

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz will be in Raleigh Thursday morning as part of the Democrat's get-out-the vote effort.

She will be part of the GottaVote bus tour which will hold its first rally of the day at N.C. State University, at 2521 Dunn Ave. at 10:30 a.m. She will be accompanied by U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton, and Congressman David Price. The group will then head out to Wilson, Greenville, and New Bern.

The NCSU campus will also see the Republican National Committee chairman later in the day. Reince Priebus will headline a rally at the brickyard at 2:45 p.m. Also attending the rally will be Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and congressional candidate George Holding.

Demonstrators to march to state legislature Thursday

A group opposed to the marriage amendment will march from N.C. State University to the state legislature Thursday, with organizers promising "several thousand" participants.

The march is organized by HonestNC, a group of community organizers from the university. Organizer Matt Huffman said the demonstrators oppose "adding discrimination to the state's founding documents ... hits right at the heart of our idea of civil unity and threatens the core legitimacy of our social mores."

After the march, the group will gather for a rally on Halifax Mall to "show our representatives in state legislature that citizens of the populace will not stand idly by while civil rights are cut off from a portion of our group," the announcement says.

Morning Roundup: Rule says visitors not welcome on 2nd floor at statehouse

At the statehouse, North Carolina's people are prohibited from visiting the second floor - the floor where lobbyists lobby and lawmakers make laws. The rule is posted on a concrete wall in the lobby, written in roughly 12-point font, behind glass and a black frame, tucked in a corner behind a leafy potted tree.

The language is nearly 25 years old, and few lawmakers knew it even existed until Thursday, when House Speaker Thom Tillis' office invoked it - for first time in anyone's memory - to clear a group of demonstrators from the hall outside his office. Read more here.

In other news:

-- Democrat Brad Miller says he won't run for governor and Republican Pat McCrory declared in a Raleigh event he's halfway to his goal. And Republicans rallied against President Barack Obama in Charlotte.

N.C. State to the rescue

When Elizabeth City State University was overwhelmed by damage from Hurricane Irene, a sister campus reached out to help.

N.C. State University sent a crew of 18 groundskeepers, dump trucks, chippers, chain saws and other equipment to work at the Elizabeth City campus during Labor Day weekend. The NCSU workers devoted four days to help ECSU deal with downed limbs and trees and other cleanup.

Today, UNC President Tom Ross praised NCSU leaders for their help. He said ECSU is down to a handful of facilities staffers.

"It would have taken them, I suspect, weeks to be able to recover had it not been for the help from North Carolina State," Ross said. "That's the kind of thing our campuses do for each other and the way they pull together."

NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson said he was glad to help ECSU.

"It was all about getting the grounds back, ready for the students so they'd be safe," he said.

It's heating up in downtown Raleigh

About 100 students with signs and homemade drums raised a ruckus at N.C. State University's Bell Tower this afternoon in a warm-up rally to oppose proposed budget cuts.

The crowd included high school students and college students from various UNC campuses as far away as Appalachian State University.

"This is no budget crisis," said Bryan Perlmutter, a sophomore at N.C. State, where a cut of $80 million is feared. "It's a moral crisis. We will no longer sit back and watch the legislature tear apart the future of this state."

The House budget proposal includes a cut of about $1 billion to all sectors of education. The UNC system would face the highest percentage cut -- more than 15 percent.

After a few passionate speeches, the crowd marched down Hillsborough Street to join thousands of teachers at a rally sponsored by the N.C. Association of Educators. Gov. Bev Perdue is scheduled to speak to the big crowd late today.

Wake legislators host education leaders

Education leaders headlined a meeting of legislators from Wake County, held Monday afternoon against the backdrop of a not-so-pretty fiscal picture. 

Legislators are looking to fill a $2.4 billion budget hole and will likely take a chunk out of education spending to do it.

Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat, raised the possibilty of university cuts of 15 percent to 20 percent, and community college budget cuts of 10 percent to 15 percent.

After the meeting, Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican and a chief budget writer, said education cuts wouldn't be that deep, but it may be that higher ed will face deeper cuts than K-12 schools.

Legislators are going to find cuts of 10 percent in the total education budget, with cuts to K-12 schools in the 5 percent to 8 percent range, Hunt said.

It's generally agreed that "K-12 is going to need a little more protection, so it's got to impact somebody," he said.

N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson, Wake Tech Presdient Stephen Scott and Wake Board of Education Chairman Ron Margiotta and other school system representatives spoke to legislators.

Here are the highlights.

From Woodson:

N.C. State has taken $146.9 million in budget cuts over the last four years.

From Scott:

In the past four years, community college system enrollment is up 25 percent, and Wake Tech enrollment is up 36 percent.

Per pupil spending has declined 12 percent over three years.

Wake Tech's enrollment increase this year accounts for 20 percent of the system increase, he said, so failure to fund enrollment growth would disproportionately effect Wake residents.

From Wake Superintendent Tony Tata:

His proposed district budget assumes a 5 percent state budget cut. The district would be able to maintain class sizes in early grades and lower class sizes from 28 to 27 students in 4th and 5th grades.

"Teacher-student ratio is key to everything," he said.

From Margiotta:

He would be receptive to having home schooled children join public school sports teams, as a pending bill would allow.

"These parents pay taxes," he said.

Mary Easley lawyer said university mishandled her challenge to firing

LAWYERS OBJECT: N.C. State University officials have misled the public about the dispute over former first lady Mary Easley's effort to contest her firing, her attorneys said in a letter Friday. (N&O)

STATE JOINS SUIT OVER PROTESTS: N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper has joined his counterparts from 47 other states and the District of Columbia in support of a lawsuit against a Topeka, Kansas, church whose members picket military funerals. (N&O)

FEUD OVER INNOCENCE COMMISSION: A key founder of the fledgling Innocence Inquiry Commission is pushing for sweeping reform to the agency.

The commission, the first of its kind in the country, won its first case in February, exonerating and freeing Greg Taylor, who spent 17 years in prison wrongfully convicted of murder.

Though the landmark case won the commission many accolades across the country, it also exposed weaknesses in the novel process, some say. Others say the commission needs time to work before major changes are made. (N&O)

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